One half of the HOTTER team, Mary Higgins, tells us how the show came to life around her kitchen table, encourages us to be unembarrassable, and provides us with an absolutely epic playlist as just part of our 10 Questions. Read on and join the party!
1. What inspired you to create HOTTER?
Ell and I met when we’d just turned 21 and we bonded super fast. Partly because we had a crush on each other, partly because we were both obsessed with our bodies and felt alone in our insecurities. We were fed up of feeling shit about ourselves, but when we talked about those feelings honestly with each other we felt a little better: we could laugh about things that usually made us cry; we could cry about things we normally suppressed. It was less lonely that way. But we were also aware that we were speaking from really limited bodily experiences, and we wanted to learn what life was like outside our cis white queer female bodies. So we decided to interview womxn and ask them the questions that were on our minds. Once we’d interviewed a few people, we realised these conversations would be the life-blood of the show.
2. The show uses verbatim dialogue - what types of people did you speak to, and how did you find them?
It was an ad hoc process. We spoke to grannies, drag artists, 11 year olds, transpeople, queers, mothers, women of colour, bartenders. Sometimes we did call-outs on social media to find a specific age group, but mostly we just kept an ear to the ground and never passed up an opportunity to ask an impertinent question and record the answer. We also interviewed our mums, Ell’s grandma, some old friends. We continued to do interviews after our first year at the Fringe to keep pushing the diversity of voices in the show. Some of the people who now feature in the show started out as fans of HOTTER who we met after the show. We were determined to keep talking to people until we had gathered interviews with a really diverse group of women and transpeople so that we could approach the womxn’s body issues from varied and original angles.
3. Why do you think it’s important for women to talk about their desires and what arouses them ?
Curiosity breeds discovery! If womxn don’t talk or write about their lusts, fantasies, kinks, masturbation techniques, how will we learn from each other? How will we come to accept ourselves? Silence on these topics begets embarrassment and fear, it’s oppressive. If we don’t talk about these things, we can’t begin to untangle ourselves from the capitalist-patriarchal-sexist structures that try to define us. Plus it’s fun ok! It’s joyous and sexy and silly. It brings womxn together. Of course, some womxn will be more private about these things than others and that’s ok too. But for those of us with big mouths like Ell and myself, we talk openly about our desires so that other people can feel their sexuality is nothing to be embarrassed about.
4. Can you tell us a bit about the trilogy that HOTTER is part of ?
Well, only two chapters of the trilogy currently exist. We’ve made HOTTER and FITTER as partner shows. FITTER is like HOTTER’s greasy younger brother, we interviewed trans men, cis men, and masculine presenting people on what it means to feel fit and fit in. The shows naturally go together as they interrogate gender and body issues from both sides of a spectrum, examining the ways ideas of ‘femininity’ and ‘masculinity’ crash into and shape each other. And as for the third show, well, you’ll have to wait and see …
5. How do you hope audiences feel having watched the show ?
F*cking amazing. Hopefully they’ve laughed and cried and danced with us. Hopefully they leave thinking ‘You know what? I am shit hot, I should give myself a break’. Hopefully they are bursting to talk to their friends, mothers and sisters. Hopefully they feel giddily empowered. Hopefully they feel unembarrassable.
6. If you had to describe HOTTER in 3 words what would they be?
Sweaty, ecstatic, honest.
7. How does it feel to be performing at the Traverse ?
Pretty damn good I won’t lie to you. A bit ridiculous when you think that we started out rehearsing in my mum’s kitchen. It’s wonderful just to have an excuse to visit Edinburgh outside of the Fringe to be honest.
8. What songs are on your ultimate dance party playlist?
The ultimate dance party would last for the rest our lives and have an infinite playlist but here’s our top ten. In no particular order. Juice by Lizzo, Sexual by Neiked, I Like It by Cardi B, Walking on Broken Glass by Annie Lennox, Go Low by Jelani Blackman, Stand on the Word by Larry Levan, F E M A L E by Sampa the Great, Then I Met You by the Proclaimers (Ell & I both have Scottish blood and a special weakness for this banger), Pussy is God by King Princess, Woman is a Word by Empress Of.
9. What are you favourite Edinburgh haunts?
Ach. Ell likes a ‘soft seat’ so we go to BrewLab for the coffee and the sofas. Last year, a friend introduced us to Chocolate Tree which does orgasmic vegan hot chocolates, a weakness Ell & I share. We love trawling through Armstrong & Sons together. A nook in Brass Monkey for a Bloody Mary shot. Bedlam for Nachos. I always run up Blackford Hill at least once while at the Fringe for refreshed lungs and head. Portobello Beach for a post-fringe swim. Paradise Palms for greasy vegan food. We’re obsessed with the city basically.
10. What’s the best piece of advice you think you’ve been given, either as a writer or performer?
Our director Jessica Edwards always tells us to sleep more, eat plenty, don’t attempt to have a social life during rehearsals. This is sage advice. Ell & I are always surprised by how knackering making & performing is. Ell and I help each other to be our best performers: we always say that she helps me be funnier and sillier and I help her to be more vulnerable.
HOTTER comes to the Traverse Thu 12 - Fri 13 May.