Mary Higgins and Ell Potter devise and perform in Fitter, a show based on interviews with trans men, cis men and male presenting people, aged from 8 to 102, discussing their views on relationships and desire.
Walking into the venue, I had anticipated a slightly misandrist hour of comedy after reading the description of Fitter. This was exactly what I thought I needed, after a long day of arguing with men. Full disclaimer: I am at a phase in my life where I am not very inclined to romantically interact with men, or rather, to interact with men on a broader scale. (I kid, of course, but I think many women identify with not wanting to be around men for just a little while. This was one of those days.) I couldn’t have been more mistaken in discerning the purpose of the show: this made Fitter a rather intriguing choice of viewing on my end.
The concept itself was empowering: a show devised and performed by Mary Higgins and Ell Potter, where they interview a range of men aged 8 to 102, and form from those recorded interviews a mode of social commentary that allows these men a certain amount of agency in how they’re perceived. There were flashy neon suits, oddly-positioned exercise balls and sudden bursts of interpretative dancing. More importantly, there appeared to be a wonderfully tight-knit structure. The opening question: ‘Would you rather be soft or hard?’
Now, I had expected a mixture of pathos and banter in the male responses. To their credit, both elements were present, but there were some rather unexpected responses from the men interviewed – my personal favourite was the highly-motivational ‘you treat a body like how a good captain treats a ship’. Slightly crude and astoundingly poignant, in equal measure. Perhaps this man had a penchant for John Mayer. While I did enjoy these moments of interspersed, fragmented commentary, I was left wondering whether the overarching narrative of the show would unravel itself some time soon. Potter and Higgins did not disappoint. After about 45 minutes into the performance, they brought out a ‘box of trauma’, providing quite a neat moment of physical theatre to represent opening a version of Pandora’s box. The box contained stories from Potter and Higgins’ formative, heart-breaking experiences with men in their daily lives. It then occurred to me that the comedy really was a way to segue into considering a wider, underlying issue that pervades the minds of many, on most days: how often are women and female-presenting individuals subject to negative interactions with men? We find that this section of the performance has content notices attached to it, and sadly, as a fellow woman of a similar age to the performers, I was able to infer the content of the stories about to follow. That, in itself, was jarring to experience, and I could sense a similar shock in many female audience members around me as we awaited the inevitable.
Yet, I did not leave the theatre hating men. Rather, watching Fitter reaffirmed what I always knew: that we are all vulnerably complex, and that expressions of vulnerability are attached to several factors. Gendered expectations imposed upon men and masculine-presenting individuals are incredibly insidious in how they affect our interactions with each other. Fitter is not about men and masculine-presenting people, in so much as it’s about how men and masculine-presenting individuals respond to their relationships and inversely, how those affected by these individuals respond to them. At the end of the night, I asked my friend, who had recently endured a rough patch with her ex-boyfriend, how she felt about it all. Her response? ‘It was exactly what I needed.’
If I had to sum up Fitter in one word, it would be ‘cathartic’.
Fitter was performed at Soho Theatre on 3 & 4 December. Click here for more information.