INTERVIEW: Matt Miller

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Matt Miller is performing Sticking at the Alphabetti theatre in Newcastle November 8th-12th.
Words by Chase Miller

Why are green rooms never green? Matt Miller, winner of a BBC Radio 3 Verb New Voices commission in 2014, and his director, International theatre artist Peader Kirk and I discussed this at the beginning of our interview, after Matt’s performance of his show, Sticking.

Matt Miller’s Sticking was intense to say the least; the show is emotionally raw and personal to an uncomfortable extent at times. It’s about leaving home and moving to university, and all of the emotions that come with said change. The show uses music, and the personal connection we have to it, as a central theme. There are songs for dancing, crying, songs for walking, (Matt used to walk to school accompanied by Disturbed’s ‘Down with the Sickness’) songs for breakups and breakdowns and running away.

It’s never stated in the actual show where Matt attended university, so my first question was to ask him exactly that. Originally, Matt says, in the show it was going to be Nottingham University, as the city of Nottingham is important to him. Plus, that’s where his short three month university experience was. But Peader states that they decided to take a more anonymous direction in terms of the setting. This reaffirms the intent of Sticking, to keep it relatable, as they wanted the narrative to be more of an everyman story.

This plays into the musical aspect of the show. Music is something we all share, despite its intense subjectivity, and both Peader and Matt wanted to explore the idea that you can still experience a piece of music in the way someone else would by empathising with them.

Paeder begins to talk about the raw presentation of university life. He says, despite the show being meticulously planned, and the fictitious or hyperbolised elements being intentionally juxtaposed against realist experiences, the pair had intended to present a kind of vulnerability when people find themselves in a new place. They wanted to show a sense of honesty and rawness, and have it be personal for an effect. There is fear within performing the show itself, Matt says, as these are his own personal stories being broadcast. This plays into it too. University for him was more of a experience of revelation, having dropped out after 3 months. Matt’s revelation extended to realisations about his sexuality and self, as well as other people in his life .

Peader tells me that, originally, many characters in the play were given more backstory. This idea was scrapped, as Matt says, because these people have become closer to characters, and that the lessons and themes from the show should be universal, even if they are drawn from personal experience.

Towards the end of our interview, Matt says something quite poignant. He says that, when you’re in a new place, on holiday for example, you find yourself acting like someone completely different and intend to act the same when you come back. But you find you can’t, as the environment is different, the people and setting are different. Peader describes coming to a new place as shedding your old skin. I think this plays into the emotional effect the show is meant to have, and that perhaps this overload of emotion coming into a new place is, sometimes, too much for us.