Chris Thorpe on Edinburgh Fringe show Status

Chris Thorpe tells us how his Edinburgh Festival Fringe show is about 'the psychology of nationality' but 'pretty Brexit-proof'

Article by Chris Dobson | 12 Aug 2019
  • Chris Thorpe

What is Status and what makes it different to all the other shows on during the Fringe?

Status is a show about the psychology of nationality. It's also a partly-impossible, daft story about trying to escape your own nationality, with some songs in it. As for what makes it different: it's got me in it! Which isn't true of any of the other shows unless I've really fucked up my scheduling.

Last year Status won a Fringe First Award; has it changed much since then, in the wake of the delay to Brexit and the EU elections?

It's changed in its relationship with the audience I think. But also it's not a 'Brexit show' in the sense that it doesn't try to be topical about Brexit. So unlike most of life at the moment, it's actually pretty Brexit-proof. I've already used that word in this answer more times than it appears in the show

Status has toured all around the UK and Europe – did it receive different receptions in England and Germany to its reception in Scotland?

Because I'm English, but a lot of the identity I talk about having on the show is British, there's a different slant on that in Scotland for sure. There's a valid viewpoint that the British identity I'm talking about isn't chosen (willingly at least) by a lot of Scottish people. But I'm not claiming anything other than my own perspective, so people get that.

It resonates even though the identity I'm talking about isn't shared by everyone in the room. Because it's about the tension between having an identity, a history thrust upon you, and the privilege it gives some people and not others, and the fact that these constructed, arbitrary things are real and have real weight, and as long as I'm talking honestly about who and what I am, I'm hopefully allowing other people to see the show in the light of their own version of that.

Can you elaborate a bit on the form/genre of Status?

It's a story with songs on one level, which is about as traditional as it gets, but it plays with who I am. I'm telling a largely autobiographical story on some level, but also I'm being the other people in that story, without (hopefully) any acting.

I don't refer to myself in the first person because I'm telling a story about a version of myself and I'm uncomfortable with the fact that version of myself is a bit of a fucking idiot. So overlaid on that quite traditional form there's hopefully some much more complex stuff about who I am and which version of me is telling the story. And I don't pretend I can't see you – we're all in the room together and I can look you in the eye (there's no audience participation though).

It looks traditional but maybe it bends reality and works on your head in a non-traditional way. There's some beautiful video and sound design by Andrzej Goulding and Tanuja Amarasuriya which twists the 'real world’ in some non-traditional directions for sure.

As which nationality do you identify? Does it matter how we identify?

I don't care about how people identify themselves. But I guess I'm more likely to identify myself as British and even English now and accept the terrible shit that makes you part of. I feel deeply European too and I always will. But if I don't claim some kind of Britishness then I leave the direction of that to the Tommy Robinsons of this world, and fuck that.

Status, Assembly George Square (The Blue Room), 17-24 Aug, 10.25am, £11-13