Ell Potter and Mary Higgins like talking to people. In Fitter, their follow-up to the wildly popular fringe hit Hotter, they set their sights on men. They interviewed 42 cis men, trans men, and masculine-presenting people, between the ages of 8 and 102, in pursuit of the answer to the age-old question: “Why are men… like that?”
It’s a quiet departure from Hotter (which used verbatim testimony from everyone except cis men to talk about body image) – not just in subject matter, but also in terms of tone. Fitter feels like a melancholy, coolly lit sister to that Technicolor show. It does start similarly though: with a dance, choreographed with evident relish by Ted Rogers and performed with rough ebullience by the pair.
It develops into something quieter and trickier. Ruta Irbite’s design (all sharp edges and straight lines) features a green box, which gurgles menacingly and is pointedly ignored by the duo until it’s impossible to do so anymore.
What’s most intriguing about Fitter is Ell and Mary’s awareness of their biases. The questions they ask their interviewees – “would you rather be soft or hard?” – are weighted. “We knew what they were going to say,” they declare, before most men reply with “soft”. “We don’t have an agenda,” they say, but verbatim theatre isn’t an objective medium, and Fitter is entirely framed through the lens of how they interact and have interacted with men.
The show unfurls slowly, unpicking their assumptions. It ends up as something uncontrollably messy: something that can’t be fixed by a fun dance at the end of the show. It’s all the better for it.