By Jessica Taurins
Matador is, at its heart, a celebration of love, friendship, and the bonds that tie us together – these are the words directly from triple threat writer, producer, and director of Matador: Bass G Fam. Inspired by Fam’s life, Matador shows an enormous range of stories of love and loss, seduction and rejection, and every vignette contains such a fantastic depth of emotion – it really must be seen to be believed. It is also a part-dance, part-circus, part-burlesque spectacle, excelling in storytelling in all three areas.
The cast of Matador all go unnamed throughout the performance, but they are each individual characters during the tale. Perhaps the best way to follow the show is to pick a couple of favourites and focus on them when they appear onstage, as there is often so much going on that it can be hard to decide where to look! The core characters – the Matador (Pip Keltie) and her Bull (Christopher Politis) – have a tumultuous relationship throughout the 2 hour performance, often bringing in other people and then moving on from them at amazing speed. However, the remaining performers have stories that are just as seductive and fantastic to see, so pick your favourite and hold onto your boleros!
The fluidity of changes in Matador are to be commended. Each performer weaves through their own storyline and into another one with intense grace, stepping into someone else’s life so easily, or simply setting up for the next vignette. It feels very much like life itself, where through an entire lifetime there are hundreds of people stepping into and out of your circles, be they friends, or lovers, or enemies, they still waltz through so briefly that they can be gone in an instant.
While the show does focus on three areas of performance, by far the most-utilised form is dance. There were multiple choreographers used across Matador’s different styles (Latin, commercial, and contemporary dance) and there was not one flaw to be seen in any of the vignettes. The dance groups were extremely fluid, ranging from one lone dancer to the entire cast – and in addition to the multiple dance styles it was such a delight to watch the extreme range of each performer. Gerard Pigg – one of the cast as well as the commercial style choreographer for the show – was one of my favourites for the evening, bringing a soulful intensity to each of his scenes.
The remaining forms of performance, circus and burlesque, could perhaps have benefitted simply from being included more. There were a few circus acts – predominantly performers on aerial hoops or silks performing synchronised acts together, which is a truly gorgeous way to present their relationship to the audience – and fewer still uses of burlesque during the show – the highlight being a striptease flowing smoothly into another aerial circus act – but Matador is definitely dominated by its dance. This is definitely not a negative! As mentioned, the choreography is stunning and each performer has their chance to shine in their preferred style, but the show is certainly set in more of a dance hall than a circus tent.
As for the set, it was expertly crafted to look like a Spanish courtyard, immediately drawing the audience into the atmosphere of a warm evening among the stars. To compliment was the costuming, which seemed to change between every scene to bring the characters and their relationships to life. No matter how simple or complex the costume, each one was impressive in its own way – from the corseted men to the thigh-high booted women.
Matador is part of the Midsumma Festival, a queer arts festival that runs each year. The pairings throughout the performance are fluid not just in partnerships but in gender and number as well, sometimes including three or more people. This inclusivity has the power to make every member of the audience feel welcomed into the space, almost as though each vignette was as intimate as a kiss. The show varies as well between sexuality and sensuality – there are multiple vignettes that are overtly sexual (the gyrating bull and his collection of male companions would be one of them) as well as slower, beautifully sensual performances as well.
Overall, Matador presents itself exactly as it describes, but it comes from every end of every spectrum. There are surprises and death-defying acts, as well as simple, beautiful slices of life. There are club-like vignettes with the whole cast, contrasting directly with contemporary dance representations of love lost. There are so many forms of love throughout the pairings in the show, perhaps as many as in the creation of Matador itself. Bass G Fam and the cast and crew should be extremely proud of creating such a fantastic, poignant, and striking show.
Images: Ben Vella