Brighton Fringe 2018
Festival: Brighton Fringe
If you’re reading this, then I must have written it.
I’ve only just started, though – I haven’t really got any idea of what I’m going to say.
One line on, and I still haven’t.
And another line …
You already know what I’m going to write, though (or at least you will in a few minutes), because you’re reading it now. But I don’t.
That’s your ‘now’, of course. Some time in my future.
Sometime in my future, you’ll read what I wrote in your past – which is my present.
That’s time as we actually experience it. Slice by slice. But what if the slices could be connected somehow, and we could move between them? Then we’d have time travel – as the science fiction writers have imagined it.
Rosy Carrick is a science fiction writer – among many other things, as you’ll see – and in a lovely moment in this show she held up a pack of cards for us. We had to imagine that the top card was Rosy as we saw her, a woman of thirty six. Then the bottom of the pack was Rosy as a young girl of six, and the rest of the pack was all the other Rosies from the years in between. She told us that the six year old Rosy used to write letters to her future selves, hoping she was ok – I found that very touching.
But the present Rosy Carrick is an academic – Doctor Rosy Carrick, with a PhD on the literature of the Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky. She’s the editor of a collection of translations of Mayakovsky’s poetry, including some of her own, and she’s a published poet in her own right.
That makes Rosy sound rather forbidding – she’s anything but! She’s a very confident solo performer with a badass delivery style and a taste for the wilder things in life – including David Bowie’s ‘Ziggy Stardust’ and Mayakovsky, who she describes as ‘the only early soviet rap star’. It was just ten years ago that she discovered him, but she subsequently made friends with his daughter Yelena, and spent six years researching a thesis on the man. That’s commitment. That’s obsession! As Rosy told us – she’s a Grade A stalker …
Mayakovsky killed himself in 1930, after a play very critical of the Stalin regime was rejected and the author’s reputation trashed. The hero of ‘The Bath-house’ builds a time machine, and a woman from the future comes back to help the victims of Soviet bureaucracy to escape. (You can see why it wasn’t approved …). Carrick has based this show on someone – Rosy herself – doing the same today; going back in time to try to rescue Mayakovsky. It goes wrong, of course – otherwise there’d be less of a story. The efforts she made to make things come right are both complex and hilarious, bringing in everything from particle physics to the theme music from ‘Rocky’ …
As well as Rosy out front, there was a large video screen at the back, and her delivery was brilliantly illustrated by an amazing set of graphics – stills from time-travel movies, computer visualizations of space-time, and wonderfully vivid Instagram photos of Rosy on her travels. Talk about Renaissance Woman – Rosy put them together too !
And talking of physics. A lot of time travel has to do with ‘wormholes’ in the fabric of space-time (but you all knew that, of course …) and there’s a little slip in time where she talks about Stephen Hawking, who theorised about them, in the present tense – when the great cosmologist died a few months ago. Rosy obviously wrote this bit when she was in a different slice …
It’s quite a tall order to build a working time machine – but then this is a very tall story that Carrick’s written. A lot of it features ‘Volodya’, her Mayakovsky book, which she mentions and shows us enough times that it began to feel like I was watching her perform at a book festival. She tells us that she not only became friends with Mayakovsky’s daughter Yelena, but that on her death Yelena bequeathed Rosy something that the poet had given her many years before. Carrick managed to integrate this artefact into her story as a central element. Clever.
But Carrick can do cheeky as well as clever. A couple of the characters from her time-travel saga actually appear on the acknowledgments page of ‘Volodya’. That’s real chutzpah.
But was any of it real? A few of us hung around outside The Blockhouse venue to try to catch Carrick afterwards, but she didn’t appear. No matter – I Googled her, and discovered that most of it, certainly the time travel blog and the ‘Volodya’ book, are true. She really is what she said she was.
See? – I can do stalking, too, Rosy.
She’s also given me a taste for Mayakovsky. I’d heard of him, as a member of the Russian Futurist movement and as a poster designer, though I’d never read his poetry. But now Rosy Carrick has got me intrigued by the man, and this show has widened my horizons.
Reader, I bought her book.