Interview With… Ell Potter and Mary Higgins

The pair chatted to Emma Clarendon about bringing Hotter to the Soho Theatre.

(c)Sophia Burnell.

Thanks so much for talking to me. Could you explain what Hotter is about?

Ell: HOTTER is a show about blushing, sweating, pinkness and pleasure. We interviewed women and transpeople aged 11 to 97 about what gets them hot and made a sweaty verbatim dance party out of their answers. HOTTER is about being embarrassed and embarrassing; about your body and being able to love it and laugh at it.

Mary: It’s also about us. We’re best friends and ex-girlfriends so we also talk about how loving another woman has opened up ways of loving ourselves. So it’s very honest and raw at times but mainly we clown around.

How did the idea for the show come about?
Mary: HOTTER is in many ways our natural born child, she just sort of popped out of us.

Ell: Mary came up to me in a pub, before I really knew the gal, and asked me if I wanted to make a two woman show with her. It soon became really clear that if we were gonna make a show together it would have to be about bodies, because we both think about them so much.

Mary: And then it’s like, we can only really talk with any authority about the bodies we live in. And Ell and I are both white, cis-gendered women in our twenties. So we decided to interview women and transpeople. We didn’t know at first how central the verbatim material would be to the show but
once we’d done a couple of interviews it was clear that those conversations were gold dust. People can be unbelievably honest when you give them the space to be.

In creating the show what did you hope to highlight?
Ell: Mainly that you’re never alone. Our experience of talking to all these different people was like a constant reaffirming that there is nothing worth being embarrassed about because at least one other person will know exactly what you’re going through. Be it bum spots to eating disorders to
enduring fat phobia to transitioning.

Mary: Our aim, the mantra we kept repeating to ourselves was: no one who sees HOTTER will ever be embarrassed of their body again. Which is obviously impossible, but it was the driving force behind
every creative decision.

Why do you think that sex and gender is still very difficult for people to talk about openly?

Mary: I think anything to do with bodies can be difficult to talk about openly, because as I said before, we only really know about the experience of living in the skin we live in. Anything beyond that is guesswork and so it’s very easy to feel totally alone in things like sex and gender that concern how the body works and what the body wants.

Ell: I think they are becoming more and more talked about as well. Issues of gender are now often a feature in mainstream news or media, which is partly due to amazing trans activism and icons like Travis Alabanza clearing the path for people to accept and respect people on their own terms. But there’s talking about the politics of gender and then there’s talking about the intimate experiences of living in a trans and/or non-binary body and those are very different things.

Mary: Yeah exactly. My experience as a 23 year old queer Londoner is that sex and gender are being talked about all the time, but that’s obviously partly down to the echo chamber I inhabit. But yeah, Cosmo
and the like publish plenty of articles about how to achieve the best orgasms with your hetero-partner, but they won’t talk about like being unable to come because of internalised shame, or vaginismus, or queer sex.

Did you enjoy taking the show back up to Edinburgh this year?
Ell: Yes. We love the Fringe. The audiences there are electric.
Mary: It’s amazing to have people return to the show for the second, or even third year in a row with their buddies and family.

How are you feeling about bringing Hotter back to London?
Mary: Well we love Soho Theatre. We’ve done two week-long runs there already in the Upstairs space and we’re SO excited and honoured to be performing in their main space. Our biggest venue yet !
Ell: Soho Theatre is such a great building and community to be a part of. In a recent mail-out, Soho referred to us as ‘part of the furniture’ and we love feeling so at home there.
Mary: But obviously it’s going to be terribly sad to when we put HOTTER to bed at the end of this run. The show has to go into hibernation to make way for FITTER but we’ve been doing it for three years now so it’s going to feel very weird.
Ell: I’m a 100% going to cry throughout the last performance.

For people coming along – what can they expect?
Mary: Fun !
Ell: Tears !
Mary: Dancing.

By Emma Clarendon

Hotter continues to play at the Soho Theatre until the 7th September.

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