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Review: Status (Summerhall, Edinburgh Fringe)

Chris Thorpe's play tells the story of a man with two passports

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Chris Thorpe in Status
© The Other Richard

Status is Chris Thorpe's second in his trilogy of plays which look at the connections between individual humanity and our politics. The first was Confirmation, a one-man, fake-news tinged investigation (were the people Thorpe spoke to real, were they not?) into the idea of confirmation bias and how we cherry pick the facts and politics of the world to suit our already ingrained versions of it. It was brilliant.

Status takes a similar form, with Thorpe alone centre stage again telling a possibly real, possibly not real story of a guy called Chris who is struggling after a monumental event in his country's (Britain's) present. What that event is exactly is never identified. But although Thorpe at one point says jovially "This isn't a Brexit play", it's hard not to infer that the event is the recent referendum. Chris, the character in the play – but definitely not Thorpe, says Thorpe – happens to have two passports and goes on a kind of soul-searching identity quest, visiting spots including Singapore and Monument Valley.

It's a meta-theatrical look at what identifying as a citizen of a country actually means. On his travels he meets a man who has declared himself stateless and a man living in the Navajo Nation – a Native American territory stretching through Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. Wherever he is, he attempts to get rid of his two passports, believing that relieving himself of his Brit identity might go some way to separate him from the toxicity of the actions of his fellow countrymen.

It's layered and funny, with rocky guitar songs played by Thorpe interspersing his text. But where Confirmation really builds up a dramatic intensity, Status never reaches a similar climax. It becomes a rumination, a confusion of thoughts, feelings and actions that never quite mesh into a unifying, palpable whole. Maybe that's the point: it's a manifestation of the uncertainty and discomfort people are feeling at the moment, but I found it hard to find my way through it.

Andrzej Goulding's video projections are an evocative addition to Thorpe's words and music and it's almost hypnotising watching them and listening to Thorpe's regular, rhythmical prose. Thorpe's a genuinely charismatic stage presence and there are moments which ping forward from Status with great clarity. As a whole, however, the piece lands with less grace and dramatic denouement than it should.

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