Devised by performers Ell Potter and Mary Higgins, HOTTER returns to fringe. This year’s (even) HOTTER is a master exploration of the modern body. Having interviewed over 30 women and trans people aged between 13 and 97, Potter and Higgins’ work is truly a celebratory hour of love, honesty and liberation. If you’ve experienced what it’s like to have – and to hate – a female body, this is the one show you should see this Fringe.
You enter the auditorium to find a rather empty space. The set consists of fairy lights and genital bunting, with a number of small props set to the sides. The two women are centre stage in a haughty freeze frame, armed with sunglasses, nonchalant gazes and draped in faux fur coats. The pair use the hour that follows to embrace their criticisms and fixations on their own bodies and provide us with a space to do the same. By the second half, you are almost certain to be both laughing and crying, sometimes at once. But isn’t that what it’s like to have a female body?
(even) HOTTER is difficult to categorise. Combining verbatim, physical theatre, dance and punchy autobiographical scenes, Ell and Mary have moulded an entirely new hybridised genre of storytelling. Critiquing the exhausting standard placed on women and the even more exhausting standards we place on ourselves, (even) HOTTER carries a beautifully honest message, but Ell and Mary don’t take themselves too seriously. Embedded is a refreshing exploration of sex, periods, orgasms, porn and menopause. Crucially, Ell and Mary are the beating heart of this show. While their comic acting throughout the piece is brilliant, the pair’s ability to just exist in the space as themselves and be relatable, honest and raw is what’s most remarkable. The result is a genius combination of being emotionally impromptu while appearing pristinely rehearsed. You get the impression that each performance is as cathartic for Ell and Mary as it is for the audience.
It is difficult to put a finger on why exactly (even) HOTTER resonates so well. It is generationally, regionally and racially inclusive. It is painfully funny. Perhaps most significantly though, it sparks conversations. Ell and Mary invite all people into the female experience to examine how we connect physical beauty to self-worth. What does it mean to be physically female? Why and how do we separate our body from our validity as human beings? The pair don’t try to argue that the body doesn’t matter. (even) HOTTER doesn’t push a ‘your shape or size does not matter’ rhetoric. Instead, it beautifully acknowledges that our existence as physical women is simultaneously flawed and perfect, and that’s ok. Concluding with positivity and celebration in the air, we arrive at a tender destination wanting nothing more than to be Ell and Mary’s best friends.
While you leave the theatre fundamentally the same person, you are a little lighter from the lifted load. (even) HOTTER is a bittersweet critique of sexuality and the female body. A giant hug of a piece, Ell and Mary invite us to embrace our self-loathing and share our self-love. They comment that ‘our dream aim, our impossible hope, the one we chant to ourselves when we’re unsure of what it is we’re making, is that no one who leaves HOTTER is ever embarrassed of their body again’. This is indeed an impossible feat, but Ell and Mary’s work is perhaps the closest we’ll ever get.
Bedlam Theatre (Venue 49)
8 – 27 August (not 14 & 21)