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FITTER by Mary Higgins and Ell Potter at Soho Theatre

Mary Higgins, Ell Potter. Credit Holly Revell.
Mary Higgins, Ell Potter. Credit Holly Revell.

I had it all planned in my head. It would be a sketch that Abbott and Costello (the American version of Morecambe and Wise) would be proud of. I’d turn up at the Soho Theatre box office and say, “I need to collect two tickets for FITTER”. The man in the box office would say “What name?”. I’d reply “Fitter” to which he’d respond, “I know what show you’ve booked for – what’s your name?” and I’d repeat “Fitter” to which he would say “Yes I’m aware you’ve booked for FITTER – but what’s your name?” I’d say again “Fitter” to which the exasperated box office person would say “I know the show’s name – what’s yours?”. This would go on ad nauseum until one of us got tired of it. In the event, I meekly said “Alan Fitter” when asked my name and the hilarious sketch never materialised.

However, although that only played out in my mind, it was the most entertaining part of the evening. Mary Higgins and Ell Potter’s piece of performance art (well I think that’s what it was supposed to be) is called FITTER though I’m not sure why the need for the capital letters. In matching power suits, sandals and socks, the pair inform the audience that this is a piece about masculinity and that they’ve interviewed various men be they gay, trans, CIS, young, and there’s even one who’s 103, asking them if they’re hard or soft. Oh, and beware they tell us, towards the end there’s a trigger point that’s quite stressful so they’ll announce it in case anyone wants to leave.

During the first three quarters of the piece, there’s voiceover, Higgins and Potter lip-synch to the voices of the interviewees (though not always), paint beards on each other, dance a lot (there’s a choreographer credited in the programme) and they strip off to their underwear replacing the suits with t-shirts and shorts. They also play a lot with two big plastic inflatable balls the kind you find at gyms these days. These are then deflated which I guess must have been some kind of metaphor, but it went over my head.

Then towards the end, they bring the box that has been on stage throughout, to the front of the space and tell the audience this is the trigger point and you can leave (and come back) if you want – someone does. This, Higgins and Potter tell us is their Box Of Trauma and in it are events that happened to them that are too painful to memorise so they will read them. Potter’s event is pretty disturbing – she was almost raped – and obviously heartfelt. Whilst Higgins’ story is about a difficult breakup which was recent and still raw. We feel their pain and they’re obviously hurting from these distressful events. However, after laying curled up together on the floor listening to the 103-year-old man say how lonely he is, they snap out of it, the audience member who left returns and the pair bring on two microphones and sing some feminine disco songs.

FITTER is aimed mainly at women who can empathise with Higgins and Potter and I totally understand the trauma they suffered and their vulnerability, but I have no idea what the first forty-five minutes or so was about. The interviews made no sense as the men interviewed came across as pretty normal to me. We all know there are some bad men out there (bad women too) who do bad things but I’m not sure how this fits within the context of the entirety of the piece.

FITTER is probably very therapeutic for Higgins and Potter but as my female companion said on the way out “I thought you had to pay for therapy – not get paid”.

2 gold stars

Review by Alan Fitter

A rugby ball’s soft, a hockey stick’s hard, what does that make me?‘ – Boy, 12
Hello, we’re Ell and Mary.
We’re ex-girlfriends and bisexuals and we’re a bit bummed out by boys.

Three years ago we interviewed women and transpeople aged 11 to 97 for our five-star sell-out show Hotter. We didn’t interview men. We just didn’t want to. Because men are trash, right?

Wrong. Well, sometimes wrong. We asked trans-men, cis-men, and masculine presenting people aged 8 to 102 about what makes them hard. This is a show about what we learned: about strength, fitting in, feeling yourself, and arseholes.

Through singing, dancing, and f*cking around in crap drag, Ell and Mary write a love letter to masculinity which they are forever tearing up and taping back together again.

Directed by Jessica Edwards with Mary Higgins and Ell Potter
Image by Holly Revell
Content Warning: contains references to sexual assault
Tue 3 Dec 2019 – Sat 4 Jan 2020

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