- Gareth K Vile
- 29 August 2018
This article is from 2018.
A temper tantrum from a place of acknowledged privilege
Chris Thorpe's previous work, Confirmation, established a strong performance persona: the shouting liberal, angry and trying to work out his rage through a theatricality that evoked rock'n'roll energy and intellectual rigour. Status works with this persona – Thorpe even picks up a guitar and does something approaching singing – but boils down to a mash up of a generic road trip and a liberal temper tantrum. The initial scene, in which he reflects on how his Britishness had saved him from a beating, suggests that he wants to consider his privilege and how Brexit might undermine it yet the subsequent narrative is little more than shouting at injustices without offering much in the way of solutions.
Anger and rage are legitimate enough, but Thorpe only ever considers his privilege in terms of his British passport and whiteness. Gender is noticed, especially in his conversation with the ghost of a woman who died attempting to cross into Europe and the waitress at a rooftop bar in Singapore, but his liberal sympathies never translate into an attempt to shift attention away from his own angst. Racing across the USA in a beat-poet style adventure, he has an encounter with a Native American, who provides obligatory wisdom and a reproof to the white man's romanticism, before returning to the UK and apparently embracing the nation in all its confused glory.
The dramaturgy is, sadly, dated: a white male bellowing about the mistakes of his country and the oppression of borders might get across the point, but effectively excludes other voices, subsuming their experience into Thorpe's monologue. He makes a distinction between the Thorpe who performs and the Chris who is the character, but this distancing is not enough to absolve Status of its macho bravado. The songs, which evoke early Billy Bragg without the lyricism, only emphasis the anger and ramble on the themes of frustration and cultural claustrophobia. While there are intriguing correlations between the personal sense of freedom and its interaction with the existing structures of world government, and Thorpe is clearly exercised about global cruelty, this aggressive, self-righteous persona doesn't enable a nuance journey into the heart of contemporary darkness.