How does Chris Thorpe make a middle-aged white man with a guitar and a show about being British absolutely the opposite of how crap that sounds?
This is the second in what will be a trilogy about identity, created with director Rachel Chavkin. The first, Confirmation, explored the idea of confirmation bias. This opts for a no less meaty theme: nationality.
A couple of thousand years ago, the phrase “civis Romanus sum” guaranteed safety across the Roman Empire. When Chris finds himself in a situation with a violent policeman in Serbia, the phrase “I’m British” has the same effect.
Thorpe unfolds the meanings of that shibboleth in a travelogue, going to find himself – or lose his Britishness – in the Arizona desert and the Singaporean digital jungle. He also mocks himself for the cringeworthiness of the endeavour, and the privilege that allows him to do it.
Behind him are projected sketches, as seemingly simple and deceptively textured as Thorpe’s writing. There are songs, too, pounded out by Thorpe on an amped-up guitar.
He holds in balance an acceptance of his “civis Romanus sum” privilege, and makes an attempt to redress it by always looking outwards; by being a citizen of the world, while acknowledging his status as a citizen of the UK.
It’s a searching, meticulously crafted, beautifully written piece, full of fragile conclusions about nationhood and privilege.