Reviewed by Kirsten Luckins
Review Date: 14/12/18


Matt Miller

05/12/18 @ ARC Stockton

Matt Miller has a couple of preferences when it comes to the language of gender and sexuality. Firstly, they’d rather a neutral pronoun to the stark binary of ‘he/she’. Secondly, they’d rather be described as ‘midsexual’ than ‘bisexual’. They don’t insist, though. It’s this ‘not insisting’ that set the tone for Fitting, a show about fluid identity and how that might be rendered visible (or not) through the costume of everyday clothes. The piece is an attempt to transcribe the subjective experience of occupying a shifting middle ground onto the mediums of stage and of language. Rest easy, it is not confrontational. It’s …meditative? Exploratory? It demonstrates. It does not insist.

Fitting is Matt’s second solo show, and although it arises out of personal experience they have moved away from the autobiographical mode of their first show, Sticking, which I think is a significant step up towards more sophisticated storytelling. Anecdote is here, but it’s only one way to explain what fluidity of gender presentation might actually mean, day to day. Everything in the show is designed for this purpose. Visually, Matt is constantly changing between ‘male’ and ‘female’ clothes, combining and contrasting the most symbolically gendered items (like stiletto heels and suits). As they do so they shift their language too, repeating phrases with changing pronouns, using self-descriptions that are at odds with what we can see, employing a floating detachment of tone that leads us to question – who is Matt now? What is Matt now?  A thread of sleight-of-hand magic runs through the show, providing a beautiful visual metaphor for how appearances can be deceptive, how visibility externally and confidence internally can come in and out of phase.

The magic tricks also give us something graceful and skilled to watch, and Matt’s obviously worked very hard to get them smooth. The last one in particular is genuinely boggling! I’m really excited to see them try, and succeed, at something like this. In the past I have been struck by a cautious quality in Matt’s physical performances, a sense of their body being held back, reticent. It’s clear in this show that their director has pushed them towards a more adventurous use of gesture and enactment, which has worked well, up to a point – some of the larger body movements are still quite tentative. Matt is so fluent as a writer, I wonder if they are reluctant to let go of the comfort zone of words? One scene in particular, an encounter on a bus, was beautifully acted, but narrated at the same time. I’d love to see some of those superfluous words let go and the narrative brought to life through physicality alone – I think it might be one way to enliven the show’s pace and overall tone.

A dreamlike sameness of tone was what stopped me from LOVING rather than really liking this show, and that could just be about where my head was at on the night. Certainly, don’t go expecting a traditional story arc with points of dramatic conflict. Think of this more like a poem. Matt is a very talented poet. the language they use in this show is very straightforward, but the way the piece is structured through repetition, metaphor, and association owes more to poetry. The effect is like entering a prism in which Matt’s experience of their own identities is turned and turned through all its facets, looking for the place where all truths come together, where ‘either/or’ is resolved into ‘I am’.