Passionate Machine

Fri 3rd – Mon 27th August 2018

reviews

Katherine Knight

at 11:59 on 9th Aug 2018

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I’m a time traveller. Who knew? At least, I am according to Rosy Carrick: and she’s been contacted by her future self, so she’d know. Carrick’s speciality is in turning the elements of everyday life we take for granted into the stuff of sci-fi – lost moments of sleep, notes and kindnesses for our future selves – they all count, and they’re all made beautiful in the hour we spend with her.

One of the stand-out elements of this show is the use of multimedia. Every form is used – pictures, film, audio recording – with every type of document – birth certificates, emails, Gumtree posts. It’s a clever and conscious look at how we record our lives and construct our identity from that, and is used to complement Carrick’s performance rather than distract from it.

The number of pop culture references Carrick manages to cram into an hour slot is frankly astonishing, and brings a usually high-flying topic down to our level – if I were told to become a time traveller, my first reaction also would be to imitate Marty McFly. Not only is the sight of Rosy using a Casio calculator as a stand-in for Marty’s watch absolutely hilarious, but it brings time travel into the realm of our everyday lives (even if some of the references did go over my film-ignorant head).

At times the show feels almost too personal. Rosy brings in elements of her life in order to blur the line between fiction and reality, which it certainly achieves – however, this does unfortunately leave some of the stories feeling spurious. The personal anecdotes are some of the most touching moments of the show and you can tell that Carrick really cares about these stories (I see tears in her eyes); I do too, but as they have very little to do with the time travel they leave the plot at times feeling confused.

However, one thing Carrick’s show does manage to do is to make sci-fi feel intimate, relevant, and possible – it doesn't just examine how time travel might be made a reality, but also the personal sacrifices we make in order to get there; how such travel itself might make us re-examine our own identity. ‘Passionate Machine’ doesn’t aim for a huge, spectacular meeting with a future self, recognising it to be spurious, cliched territory. Instead, it leaves us with that time-honoured quote: “Be excellent to yourselves”. And what could be more important than that?

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Martha Crass

at 18:49 on 9th Aug 2018

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Ten minutes into ‘Passionate Machine’, a supposed sci-fi journey of one woman building a time machine, I thought I had walked into the wrong venue - was this a piece of fiction or a lecture? A live reading of someone’s autobiography? A TED Talk, even?

Rosy Carrick’s presence on stage lies somewhere between lecturer and conversationalist; her tone is perhaps too natural, too real, for this to be interpreted as a piece of drama. The script reads like a diary or a novel, and Carrick’s delivery does nothing to contradict this - she speaks to the audience the way you might to someone over coffee. Only, here, the content is equally mundane, except with an element of childish time travel fantasy woven through it. This was something that felt a bit awkward: in real life, Carrick runs her own blog on time travel, and the whole piece felt a lot like a conspiracy theorist explaining their wealth of indisputable evidence, whether this was intended (and deliberately exaggerated) or not.

In light of this, ‘Passionate Machine’ certainly confounded audience expectations. There were a number of young teens and even children watching, presumably there because they had been promised a zany, fun, time-travelling adventure by all the accompanying descriptions and programme materials of the show. I, too, had prepared myself for a sci-fi escapade. I was surprised when what we were actually given was a very personal, largely autobiographical encounter of one woman’s rather more metaphorical journey, rather than any temporal travel.

As the show progressed, and Carrick shared her stories of conflict, hardship, even abuse, it was quite clear that this was not a show aimed at children. Carrick also swore freely and frequently, and while this in itself was not at all problematic, at times it certainly felt gratuitous. It was as if the swearing was used to try and draw people in, or perhaps appeal to a younger audience - but this alone couldn’t sustain an interest that simply wasn’t there.

The show was accompanied by a series of powerpoint slides, voice clips, and short videos. It felt an odd choice, further confusing the genre of the show, but also wasn’t used to great effect thanks to the pixelated, badly framed, unpleasantly-soundtracked nature of the slides and the poor quality audio. This further cheapened the atmosphere that Carrick had created at the beginning of the show when, unpacking her belongings, she had revealed (and then kissed) framed photos of iconic sci-fi actors, after pulling two lego figures out of her bra and placing them on a desk.

It seems that some of the attraction of this show was supposed to come from all the references to sci-fi films, actors, and their various gadgets, but these were more of a vague appeal to pop culture in general; who in the audience wasn’t familiar with 'Back to the Future'? While Carrick’s delivery was confident, and it was a fairly original concept for a show, ‘Passionate Machine’ suffered for being presented in a theatre venue. Not believable enough to be taken as reality, nor compelling enough to be fiction, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.

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