Review: Passionate Machine at Norwich Arts Centre

NNF18 - Passionate Machine. Photo: Courtesy of Norfolk and Norwich Festival

NNF18 - Passionate Machine. Photo: Courtesy of Norfolk and Norwich Festival - Credit: Courtesy of Norfolk and Norwich Festival

The intrepid festival goer sometimes needs some background knowledge in order to get the maximum out of a Norfolk & Norwich show. This is a case in point.

Performer, Rosy Carrick, is a poet and translator. She is currently probably best known for her work on the revolutionary Russian poet - Mayakovsky.

To date, she has gained acclaim for her collection of his works - Volodya.

She also performed a very interesting audio version of one of his romantic poems - Pro Eto: That's What which was translated by Norwich's own Dr George Hyde.

Her self confessed obsession with Mayakovsky is the seed for her monologue- although she seems shy about mentioning it in the publicity. His play The Bathhouse features a man building a time machine and a Phosphorescent Woman from the future, who could, she thinks, be a version of herself.

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In an hour-long musing that would make Dr Who seem straight forward, she posits the theory that a she may actually have travelled in time to Mayakovsky in order to attempt to save him from committing suicide, and got stuck there. Her journey to understand how to rescue herself is the action of the show.

Carrick is well-informed and enthusiastic about her subject, so it seems a shame that the piece does not hang together in its present form. There are many wonderful ideas in the text, including some interesting stylistic ideas. Was she, perhaps, inspired by the Russian director Evreinov - a contemporary of Mayakovsky's, who felt that the theatre was the ideal forum to act out hidden trauma? Some surprising moments, in which the poet suddenly reveals abuse she has suffered, suggest this may be so.

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But ultimately there's a bit too much going on. One strand of all this, explored in depth, would be enough. What about a full telling of the magical and very real piece of time-travel she performed the day she sat down, read Mayakovsky's work, and fell in love across the ages?

• Passionate Machine is part of this year's Norfolk and Norwich Festival. For your daily guide to festival events click here

• For all the latest festival news and reviews click here

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