The Last Show Before We Die

The Yard

As someone who has been rewatching the same four 90s sitcoms for the last ten years, I could not be called good at “endings”. So at least I have something in common with Mary Higgins and Ell Potter as they explore the phenomenon from all angles. I mean mainly from the theatrical one, but you get the idea.

Hotter Project bring us another rip-roaring, queer, cabaret, hyper-sensory messy, stressy, and wild ride, following on from their shows Hotter and Fitter. Can you see a theme?

With basically no set apart from a paddling pool, some string, scattered confetti string (who needs more), and David Doyle’s clubbing-style lights, the pair craft an utterly charming evening. Equal parts silly, sensual, and serious. Ell and Mary are joined at the hip, exes, best friends, flatmates, and experimental theatre makers. It’s a lot for anyone. So as their wants change and they flirt with the idea of going their own ways, how do they cope with this momentous change? They make a show about it, of course.

Clad top to toe in layers of see-through tights with holes in, a bit punk, a bit sci-fi, they wiggle around the stage. Making the most of Tom Foskett-Barnes’s soundscapes, comprised of interviews and found audio they recorded with a diverse group of “professional enders”: a former addict, a grief counsellor, a climate activist, midwife, and even Ell’s now deceased grandpa. Along with director/co-creator Sammy J Glover, the explosion of lip-synching, standup, contact improvisation, crowd work, and live singing thunders along, sampling all the many endings and beginnings in a serotonin-laced hunt for answers.

Now this isn’t without issue. Having missed lunch, I brought some crisps into the theatre (I know shoot me). As a painfully polite human, I did not want to nibble on them during the confessional style microphone sections, as audience participation was threatened but thankfully not much was carried out. About fifteen minutes in I realised that if I timed my munching to when the loud “dancey bits” were I could feast in peace. Crisp bag down, crisp bag up, was repeated for the rest of the evening at predictable intervals.

However, the pattern-like nature of the show is certainly blurred by the diverse range of content within that formula. Ell belting out Maybe This Time from Cabaret in the above-mentioned paddling pool, while trickling sand through her palms, as snippets from a man who lost contact with his children intersect is bleak and beautiful. The mix of comedy and tragedy when Mary’s grandpa’s poignant last interview is shattered by an ill-thought-out and soon-scrapped “crows” imitation sequence is full of guilty laughs. An early-on choral song to a midwife’s frankly harrowing description of birth is also not what I thought I needed, but what in fact I really did. It’s a show self-aware of its own disintegration, as the pair air their friendship’s dirty laundry and pet peeves, meta haters beware.

Queer joy and friendship must be celebrated and the duos bond, even if it is ending/changing is lovingly conjured for us. A glimpse into a little world of two, a micro-microcosm of support, an invitation affably opened up to the 100-something audience. As they read love letters to one another surrounded by string they weaved around the space and the audience, even I was forced to put my sweet chili crisp back into its packet, even if only momentarily. Then bursting out into a bouncing 80s dance, balancing the bickering we were treated to a couple of scenes before. Friendship, love, and life in all its transient and ultimately ending reality is explored with very little subtlety but a lot of enthusiasm and comedic know-how. I feel honoured to have witnessed this most glorious of stops. Now I’m off to watch Gilmore Girls again for the thousandth time, goodbye!