HOTTER, a new devised piece by Mary Higgins and Ell Potter, is a joyous celebration of the female body in all its messiness, ages and stages. Over the course of around 45 minutes, the actresses lead us through recorded interviews, dances, sketches and monologues exploring what it means to live in a female body, and what it means for it to get hot. Sitting in a semi-circle on low chairs and fluffy cushions, we were invited into an intimate environment perfectly designed for an unashamed discourse about things we’re always told to keep quiet.
The inclusion of stories and perspectives from trans women, disabled women and women of colour is of the utmost importance in any discussion of womanhood, and HOTTER does this sensitively, interacting with the stories rather than taking possession of them. While the actresses observe the necessity of rooting the production in their own experiences, they often mouth along to interviews or share the voice of one person, respectfully bringing other women’s stories alongside their own. This was a lovely way to acknowledge the connections that can be found in opening up about ourselves in ways considered taboo.
The production shone in its moments of direct audience interaction. This is, after all, a space created for inclusiveness and taboo-breaking, and the sense that something really special was being shared with us pervaded the piece. However, this relationship with the audience became slightly fragile at points: while the actress’s direct connection to the interviewees, and their monologues framed as open letters to some of these women provided some of the most moving moments, there was occasionally a feeling that the audience were on the outside of these experiences looking in. The intensely personal nature of the topic makes these sections important and touching, but the actresses will have to make extra effort to reach out when faced with unfamiliar audiences over HOTTER’s Fringe run.
The intermittent return to recorded interviews provided a through-line, though at times the piece lacked a sense of progression. While it doesn’t require a narrative as such, the collage of sketches and dances sometimes felt a little lost without a stronger driving force. This wasn’t helped by the fact that a couple of sections, including the opening, fell just shy of indulgent length. The audience needed to be thrown into the pacy, exciting contrasts of the piece a little quicker, as it is in these transitions that HOTTER finds its heart. Sudden switches between hilarity and seriousness, as well as different voices and physicalities, provided the pulse of such a wide-ranging exploration.
Higgins and Potter have undertaken a really beautiful project in gathering and sharing these stories, and it’s of course refreshing to see something so frankly and unapologetically done. Slick writing and natural, bubbly comedy that gains momentum as the piece progresses make it impossible not to be pulled into the fun and freedom of HOTTER. This is a piece that at once delights in the transitory peaks of the body’s hottest moments, and provokes thoughts that endure long after you’ve left the room.