Developed over the last eighteen months, writer Matt Miller, alongside director Peader Kirk, performed Sticking at the Alphabetti theatre in Newcastle from the 8th to the 12th of November.
The theatre is a bit of a rabbit hole; once you find its hidden door (or I suppose, blue wooden gate at the back of the building), you enter a tiny maze of staircases, a bar, lovely staff, and a random collection of chairs. It is laden with poems, miscellaneous decorations, post-it notes and, generally, all the ingredients for a bohemian haven. Amongst the heart of the city centre, it transports you for a couple of blissful hours into a place that is entirely open to new ideas.
The event was part of a scheme the theatre run called ‘pay what you feel’, meaning exactly that. Instead of buying your ticket, you receive a brown envelope at the start of the play and pay what you feel the piece deserves at the end. Even hard up students can attend the theatre without feeling embarrassed about what they can afford, helping move art and performance into a far more inclusive field.
The performance itself was in a word: incredible. The story traced a first year student called Matt recalling his first term at university through the music he listened to- though of course on vinyl.
The piece explored the idea that music (or even the fault in a vinyl) can act as a memory, commemorating and even encapsulating our experiences- hence the play’s name. ‘It’s the scratch in the vinyl, the sticking point, that brings back as much memory as the song.’
The play included several characters (those that you may stereotypically encounter at university, such as Tory Tom and Posh Rich), but, as you will have noticed, only one actor. Matt managed to portray a multitude of characters- all distinctly recognisable and separate, with ease, expertise and control. From drag queens to band kids there was never a falter in characterisation. He did this on an entirely minimalistic set that consisted of a bed, a vinyl player and some records. However, Matt remembered a series of events, some of which were sidesplittingly funny, others heart breaking, in a way which produced a complete and detailed picture. Matt manipulated the audience, bringing us close to tears at one moment and laughing the next. These memories were not necessarily framed by time or dates, but by music, feeling and discovery- each memory enhanced by one of 12 iconic British records.
But Sticking isn’t simply a play about the memories of a single student. Nor is it simply a play about the importance music has in our lives- though both are true. It is a play about people who feel, really feel, and are desperate to connect to everything and everyone. The people who see the depth to themselves and others, who struggle, who elate, and even through hardships, such as heading home after one term at university, endure.