The Soho Theatre, London until 15th June
Hotter is one sweaty, dizzy, breathless night at the theatre. Those awkward topics you would think twice about airing at dinner? Hold onto your seat, because Ell Potter and Mary Higgins are going there.
Indeed, the self-proclaimed ‘verbatim dance party’ is an energetic observation of what itmeans to be female and feminine in this day and age. Through characterised lipsyncs set to the audio of interviews, raucous dance routines and perfectly harmonized song, the two players confront numerous issues – body image and self-esteem, the influence of marketing and pop culture on the female mind, gender performativity, queerness, mental health and, of course, sex.
Potter and Higgins lead the show together, neither overtaking the other or stealing the spotlight. It is collaboration onstage at its best. Even if a line is flubbed, or a performer too breathless to continue, they laugh it off with good humour and throw in a blinding witticism that sends the crowd into hysterics. The show feels partly like a stand up show, with the performers talking to us casually and honestly throughout, which makes for a breath of fresh air. It also allows their words to be honest and vulnerable, particularly as the two explore their relationship.
“I didn’t want to be gay,” Potter tells us – and Higgins – at one point. The line cuts deep, a heavy echo of sentiment for anyone who has struggled with accepting their queer identity. The actors, carefully guided by director Jessica Edwards, procure a charm and delicacy in their performances that makes us want to keep listening.
The design is admittedly simple, but it works for the show. The glamorous, neon rave costumes are eerily reminiscent of Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone, delightfully tacky and glamorous in equal measure. The audio interviews are immersive, funny and genuinely interesting. The women speak frankly and aren’t afraid to diverge from the play’s subject matter, with one older lady stating (to paraphrase): “There’s an obsession with the flesh… I don’t find it very interesting.” As the actors’ confessions and dialogue becomes increasingly intimate, they strip down, an apt symbolic gesture.
In the end, Hotter is not just a hell of a party – it’s an honest, reflective love letter written by the performers for themselves and the women in their lives. So race for your ticket, and dress lightly on the night – it’s going to get hot!
© Killian Glynn 2018