Daniel Nelson

 


If lazy rhetoric about Britain's unique qualities stick in your craw ("Fifty years on from now, Britain will still be the country of long shadows on cricket grounds, warm beer, invincible green suburbs, dog lovers and pools fillers" © John Major), treat yourself to Status at the Battersea Arts Centre. 

Chris Thorpe

Chris Thorpe

Image by Battersea Arts centre

There, Chris Thorpe will give voice to your post-Brexit vote anger, the virus of nationalism, and the absurdity of borders as he takes you on an 80-minute road trip through Serbia, Monument Valley, Singapore and the wilder shores of his mind. And if his stories and visions are insufficiently stark and surreal to match your frustrations, he occasionally thrashes a strident red guitar to reinforce his points.

Thorpe’s monologue is sparked by Prime Minister Theresa May’s cheap-shot dictum that “if you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere”, to which retorts, “Every part of me wants to believe that’s a lie.” The story gets going in an East European bar where his Britishness saves him from an unpleasant incident, and thereafter is about his attempted escape from the UK, or to be exact, from Britain’s national story.

His journey is told in a series of anecdotes (one of which explains why he is travelling with two passports) that move the story on geographically – backed up by graphics on a screen behind him – and conceptually. The passports symbolise nationality (and, since they belong to the government and can be withdrawn, our lack of rights) but, though he doesn’t say so, they also signify the inequality of the world: a full UK passport gives you visa-free entry to 164 countries, whereas an Afghan passport enables you to visit only 29.

The anecdotes sometimes refer back to an earlier yarn, giving the piece coherence, and the hallucinatory flights of fancy thicken and propel the story into unexpected shapes and places. He holds the stage, with just enough dabs of self-deprecation to avoid seeming self-satisfied. Most of the humour produces internal chuckles rather than belly-laughs, but Thorpe pulls off an extended riff that’s entertaining and thoughtful.

* Status, £15/£12.50, is at Battersea Arts Centre, Lavender Hill, SW11, until 11 May. Info: 7223 2223/ https://www.bac.org.uk/

 

 

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