Status at Battersea Arts Centre
Inspired by Theresa May’s assertion that “if you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere”, writer Chris Thorpe and director Rachel Chavkin explore philosophical ideas around nationality. Starting with his fictionalised, but still highly autobiographical, tale of one man’s disenchantment with his nation after the vote, Thorpe embarks on a quest around the world furnished with two British passports. Through the 80-minute running time, via monologue and song, the performer confronts the arbitrary nature of national borders. He finds himself in Monument Valley, guided by a Navajo named Joe who indulges the tourists in their insistence that every rock should have a name. In Joe’s world, this is irrelevant.
Employing some poetic license, the protagonist finds himself in the desert speaking to a coyote who is also the spirit of a 10-year-old East German girl, then in Singapore, which is described as a kind of alien, peak-capitalist sci-fi nightmare, then in an airport talking to a cardboard cut-out who is also the spirit of a drowned migrant. The writing is somehow looping, propelling forwards but periodically harking back to the memory of Chris avoiding a beating from police in a Serbian bar by way of his nationality; the fact that his country had once bombed theirs and could, conceivably, do so again affords him protection few others can enjoy. Thorpe confronts the legacy and responsibility for a colonial past, while also examining how rejecting a nationality is in itself a privilege.
The delivery builds to crescendos of passion, with the performer sometimes breaking into a raw song played on the electric guitar, before lulling again, which further pulls the audience in.
The screen behind Thorpe projects suggestions of skylines: London, the desert, Singapore. A sketched suggestion is effective and the viewer feels the journey with Chris – as he travels to Los Angeles the insufficiency of maps to truly capture the world is palpable. Andrzej Goulding’s video design complements the imagination and vividness of the writing.
There are some memorable and fascinating sentences, such as “that object is impossible” when singing about a Russian skateboard; “If you don’t move, you don’t feel your chains”; “like looking in a mirror or the opposite”. Status raises timely questions and provides a thought-provoking 80 minutes.
Photo: The Other Richard
Status is at Battersea Arts Centre from 23rd April until 11th May 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the trailer for Status here: