Reviewed – 9th December 2019
“The comedy is frequent, and welcome. Because there are things here that are painful to listen to”
It is Monday evening. I am going to see Fitter at Soho Theatre, but I am killing time in a bookshop. I pick up a book about Dorothy Parker and flip through the pages. The first one I stop to read contains the poem “Symptom Recital”. And, all the way from 1936, Dorothy Parker strikes a chord when she says:
‘I shudder at the thought of men.’
Mary Higgins and Ell Potter also shudder at the thought of men. Their previous show, Hotter – a celebration/exploration/reclamation of bodies – was based on interviews with just about everyone except cis men. Obviously. Why would they want to speak to men? Beside, men don’t need a show.
Or maybe they do.
‘Maybe everyone needs a show.’
Part verbatim theatre, part performance art and part confession, Fitter is based on interviews with cis, trans, and masculine presenting men of all ages. Higgins and Potter ask them about their lives (emotional and physical), and use their answers to create a show that challenges popular misconceptions.
The audience’s expectations are dismantled at the same time as the performers’. Higgins and Potter know what the answer to their first question – ‘Would you rather be hard or soft?’ – will be. Until it ends up being the opposite. Emotional men don’t exist. Until they’re spotted crying at X Factor. It’s a well-known fact that men just want sex. Until they shock us by celebrating the emotional connection between themselves and their sexual partner.
Higgins and Potter lip-sync loving words between partners, recreate fights between pre-teen boys and play everyone from eight year olds to middle aged football fans. They also do a dance routine about douching. Which is one of the many gloriously silly moments that make this show so fun, in spite of its seriousness. Keeping the stage clear of set (with the exception of a small but significant green box), they fill it instead with energetic musical interludes that both add to the narrative and provide comic relief.
The comedy is frequent, and welcome. Because there are things here that are painful to listen to. Not just because they are beautifully written, not just because they are sensitively performed – but because they are true. Yes, some men are trash. Some are beyond trash, straying into “irredeemable” territory. But others are sensitive and thoughtful and kind. And they deserve to be uplifted. Fitter does not shy away from interrogating either. Instead, it celebrates the vulnerability of human life, the joys and fears of the individual, and the experience of coming together to watch two women redefine the male stereotype (and draw beards on each other).
On the bus home, I re-read “Symptom Recital”. It turns out that the relatable line is actually a rhyming couplet, paired with:
‘I’m due to fall in love again.’
I don’t think Fitter will make you fall in love with men. But it might help you understand them. And that, in and of itself, is a very valuable thing.
Reviewed by Harriet Corke
Photography by Holly Revell
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: