Dr Rosy Carrick - "I used to write letters to myself as a child"

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As part of our Reigning Women mini-season, Dr Rosy Carrick will be bringing her award-winning show Passionate Machine to TOM on 17 March. She spoke to Ben Bailey at VIVA Brighton about the show and what inspired her to write it.

It’s a show about time travel, but it’s also about how we interact with our various past and future selves on a day-to-day basis. We all navigate these relationships, whether it’s looking at old photos or leaving notes to remind ourselves to buy milk or whatever. The show asks what if that was turned the other way round? Instead of writing to your future self, what if you got a note back?

It’s partly a geeky sci-fi adventure caper, and partly autobiographical. And the line between those elements becomes very blurred. The premise of the story is that I’ve received a letter from my future self who has built a time machine and gone back to the 1920s in order to save the Russian revolutionary poet Vladimir Mayakovsky from committing suicide. That Rosy got stuck there in the past - so now it’s down to me to save her. And I’m trying to work out how to do this seemingly impossible job on the basis of the time travel films I grew up watching, with the help of a scientist that I meet on Gumtree.

Vladimir Mayakovsky was an avant-garde poet who committed suicide in 1930. I came across his poem A Cloud in Trousers in 2007 and it was just the most incredibly beautiful thing I’d ever read. So that led me to want to study Russian, and I ended up writing a PhD on his poetry. And I was talking to my friend James about it, and said ‘look Rosy, what you need to do is make a time machine, go back to the second he’s about to shoot himself and whisk him back here - he can live out the rest of his life with us in the future, and he can help you with your PhD!’

I used to write letters to myself as a child. There was always this sense of faith in the future and I was very inquisitive about what my future self was doing. I found an old diary of mine and there are tiny things I’d completely forgotten about. I was in a really bad space, so I think I was sort of looking for answers in a future self that didn’t exist yet. I couldn’t help but go back into that diary and write a response, 20-something years later.

The show is very silly and funny, and strange and interesting in lots of ways, but it’s also very optimistic, and empowering. It’s about recognising your own agency. It won an award in Edinburgh, but performing it every night was a strange, isolating experience and I thought I’m really glad this isn’t a show all about suicide… it’s about prevailing, and being proud and good to yourself.

When terrible things happened in the past you’d want to go back and say don’t worry, it will all be okay, but actually I think part of what the show is about is acknowledging that it’s okay to not be able to go back. The very fact of still existing and forging forward into the world is enough of a message.

Passionate Machine comes to TOM on Sunday 17 March.

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