Mary Higgins and Ell Potter
HOTTER Project and Ellie Keel Productions
Soho Theatre

Mary Higgins and Ell Potter Credit: Holly Revell

There is a cabaret-style of music, dance and amusing one-liners to the show Hotter which takes as its subject the way women and non-binary people feel about their bodies and sexuality.

Mary Higgins and Ell Potter, who devised the show, lip-sync to clips from their interviews with people aged 11 to 97 talking about masturbation, periods, the menopause and whether “you’d rather be hot or cold.”

Some of the interviewees speak of awkwardness over their shape, their size, their body hair. Mary and Ell are not surprised given the way “Capitalism commodifies our bodies” adding, after a list of examples, “I refuse... but I liked smooth legs.”

Ell tells us that, having come to accept her shape, she bears a proud tattoo on her leg of a full English breakfast.

They are good friends and at one time lovers who, when they broke up, almost abandoned the show but for having already paid for their Edinburgh Fringe venue.

This aspect of their personal life becomes part of the show as Mary asks Ell, “why you didn't level with me,” to which Ell replies, “I didn't want to offend you… You were very intense.”

They are a remarkable comedy team who can land a joke so perfectly, it is difficult later to explain why it got the laugh. The upbeat humour is the show's greatest strength, but it is also a source of its weakness since the pursuit of the next joke tends to replicate the narrow way women are so often framed.

Take for instance the clip of a young woman talking about her experience of developing breasts at the age of 11. Her words have been edited to repeatedly insert the word “boobs” so that the word “boobs” becomes a manic “boobs” takeover of her speech. The sequence could be a metaphor for the way the specifics of a woman’s body can suddenly come to dominate her life. Yet it simply prompts laughter before the show moves on.

There is no question Hotter is an entertaining performance piece, but it could be so much more.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna

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