Emerging from a vibrant North East poetry scene, Matt Miller is someone who keeps pushing himself into newer ventures beyond just spoken word. The newest of those sees him performing a new character, beauty queen and part time eco warrior Suzanne Tweddle at alternative variety night PUG at Tyneside Irisih Centre on Friday 27th January. It’s one of the character’s first real outings, and should add to an exciting evening alongside hosts Hannah & Rosa, multi-disciplinary artist Tara Fatehi Irani and dance group Company of Others II.
“Suzanne is a poet. In her own mind, she’s on a very important mission to save the world through poetry. To open people’s eyes to all of the issues that there are. I don’t really know if she knows particularly where she stands on a lot of those issues or is particularly well informed,” Matt carefully described her. The character seems centred around those she looks up to and Matt continued, “the tragedy of Suzanne and hopefully the window into her is that I think everyone at some point in their life, certainly I have, has been caught in the wake of people they look up to and idolise and take everything they say as gospel and find it confusing when those things seem to contradict each other.”
It was fascinating hearing Matt talk about himself, then switch to talking about Suzanne in the third person, even though the character is still forming, he sees her as a person still finding her feet and that can only benefit her development. “The only airtime she’s had before is the gig she was born at. One poem at the Anti-Slam, where I dressed up. She’s got a twitter account now. I’ve got the bones of the story for her.” That story is set to develop organically, as “this is gonna be a bit of a testing ground for a bit of it, to try and find a bit of the story that works.”
With another successful character, Rob Hobson, in his back catalogue too, Matt has made sure he’s able to constantly find new and inventive ways to channel his creativity, whether poetry, writing, directing or acting, even stand-up comedy. It’s the acting side that has perhaps lead him here though; “I got into acting when I was dead little, school plays, and I loved the charicatureness of it. I was Fagan with bits of beard stuck to my face.” Though creating his own, the difference is massive for him, “it’s like adopting them as a toddler, as opposed to giving birth to them.”
It’s perhaps his control over the editing process that provides more joy in the new characters, especially with Rob Hobson the “ex-radgie, someone trying to get his life in order, but he’s still a proper knacker.” It’s a character Matt treads immensely carefully with to get right, and there’s real tenderness in the way he makes sure that these are real people. Priding himself on work that is “vulnerable, raw and honest,” he does recognise the need that “it’s got to come from a point of love. Eventually, they’ve got to win. If not win, be redeemed somehow. They’ve got to be likeable to not just be, ‘oh look at this dick head.’”
That all evolves from a playful nature, and allowing the characters to find their feet, which perhaps all comes naturally, “I play personas all the time. I’m rarely the same person day to day in my actual life.” He even went through a spell of performing poetry under a pseudonym, though that inadvertently lead to him being booked for the same gig twice. It all brings him back though, to having a reason to be that character, ““you always try and present something that other people can connect to. It’s like a window rather than a letter.”
Through experimenting and always allowing the character to surprise him, he’s managed to form a real bond with Suzanne, “her poetry is wonderfully appalling, but there’s a real strong belief in it. I think she says a lot of quite insightful, heart-prodding things entirely by accident sandwiched within heaps of tripe and bull shit.” Through all of that, it’s still the revealing aspect of what the characters show through what they don’t say that he finds most interesting. With the backdrop of the Tyneside Irish Centre, and the vibe of it looking “just like a working men’s club,” it really is “the perfect environment for Suzanne. She’s working class with pretentions upwards.”
With an evening that’s been carefully curated to draw together programming that’s going to work together, you can see why Matt Miller’s newest creation would be the perfect choice. With this proving one of the many tentative steps in taking Suzanne Tweddle towards a future Edinburgh Fringe show, it’s going to be wonderful to share her company so early on, and to see just what she (and Matt) decide to do in the future.