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Musclebound – Assembly Roxy – Edinburgh Fringe

Rosy Carrick likes to touch herself. I very much doubt she would have an issue with me saying that – after all, she said she likes to touch herself at various points during the show. One need not know very much about 1980s action movies – I haven’t seen many, and can barely recall any – all is explained, and to keep everyone singing from the same hymn sheet, there are even video clips that make clear precisely what scenes from which films Carrick is talking about. A confession, on my part: despite his extensive back catalogue of motion pictures, Dolph Lundgren is not a name I knew before seeing this show.

Musclebound- Rosy Carrick - Credit Andre Pattenden.
Musclebound- Rosy Carrick – Credit Andre Pattenden.

There’s a considerable amount of detail about Carrick’s personal life, too, with a full-size dummy on stage representing, at various points, significant others in her life over the years. The audience is introduced to her ex-long-term boyfriend, Guy, and Jay, who would have been her new partner, but the relationship turned out to be a short-term fling. Then there’s her daughter, Olive, who despite being grossly unhappy at Carrick and Guy splitting up, kept communication lines open with both of them: some families aren’t even on speaking terms.

Carrick is also an expert on tortuous scenes in motion pictures from a generation ago, in which there was, indeed, a trend I’d never noticed before – men, usually the very muscular type, would play characters that one way or another would be subjected to considerable torture by the film’s antagonist(s), who were invariably also men. In one clip, Arnold Schwarzenegger is being filmed at the gym doing his workouts, before the video cuts away to him reflecting on what it is like to work hard to maintain his physique – it’s as absurd as it is illuminating.

The on-stage screen is used extensively (why not?), not just to show the audience some bodybuilder being tied down, or whipped, or crucified, but – for instance – to recreate an exchange of text messages between Carrick and Guy, or to show an entry in her diary when she was eleven years old, in which she declares herself, in block capitals, to be a sex maniac.

Carrick’s attempts to fully consider what on earth all that torture, essentially (as she sees it) expressions of homoeroticism, was trying to achieve, extended to forking out considerable sums of money to a fan convention to see Lundgren, and then to an event called the Arnold Classic, an annual bodybuilding contest, to see Schwarzenegger. Not just to see them, but to participate in talkback sessions, in which she posed questions about torture in movies. Lundgren’s answer was underwhelming, while Schwarzenegger’s was a long and rambling one (so much so the audience is only treated (or subjected) to the salient points).

Some statistics about the number of women who apparently fake their orgasms (or, at least, are willing to admit they do to a statistician) detracted somewhat from what was otherwise a very personal story. There’s a compelling call for women to, well, stop lying to their partners and to themselves, whether it’s about fake orgasms or anything else. The show takes a convoluted route to reach that conclusion, but it’s a journey worth taking. A confident and amusing production.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

When bodybuilders and 80s action films unite, you can always count on one thing: a good hard flogging! And for a five-year-old Rosy, witnessing live action film characters like He-Man and Conan the Barbarian being stripped, beaten and humiliated by their male antagonists sparked an odyssey of secret obsession that would shape her erotic life forever.

Venue: Assembly Roxy, Downstairs (venue 139) Tickets: £11.50 – £13.50 (previews 3 & 4 Aug £7.50)
Dates: 3-29 Aug (not 10, 16, 23) First review date 3 Aug Venue Box Office: 0131 623 3000

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