Rosy Carrick on Musclebound

Photo: Andre Pattenden

Newly single, forty and doling out relationship advice to a teenage daughter on the brink of her own first sexual encounter, Rosy is forced to confront the niggling suspicion that something about her sexual past has never felt quite right. Could reconnecting with the hyper-macho desires of her youth be the key to restoring her sexual power in the present? Or is there a more uncomfortable truth waiting to be reckoned with?

Recounting the hilariously obsessive real-life details of Rosy’s quest for sexual fulfilment alongside frank and intimate conversations with her daughter Olive and candid interviews with her childhood heroes Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dolph Lundgren, Musclebound leaps from the niche fetish of one individual woman into an important and long-overdue exploration of power, performance and the politics of pleasure in heterosexual sex, as Rosy is forced to ask herself: what are the sexual lessons we want to pass on to our daughters – and what do we still need to learn for ourselves?

We caught up with Rosy to find out what it’s like to be returning to the show following its success at Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Q&A with Rosy Carrick

How does it feel to be returning to Musclebound and taking the show on the road?

It has been very interesting to return to the script and feel my way into it again. I had planned to tour this show last Autumn but couldn’t make it work with other work commitments, so there’s been an unusually big gap between the Edinburgh run and the UK dates. I wasn’t sure how that would feel because the story is so personal, and charts a very particular time in my life, but, actually, coming back to it now – and the distance that brings – has allowed me to develop it further and add a new sense of perspective to the narrative. I’m not so in the thick of it anymore!

What can you tell me about the show and its original inspiration?

Musclebound follows my journey to work out why – despite being a confident and very sexually powerful woman, all my sexual relationships up to that point had left me feeling a bit powerless. The impetus (both in real life and in the show) was that my (then) seventeen year-old daughter Olive was on the brink of her own first sexual relationship, which was making me reflect a lot on my own sexual past. At the same time, my relationship with my partner at the time was ending; and I was getting really re-engaged in the heady world of macho 80s action films. Or – more specifically – the homoerotic torture scenes that feature in almost all those films. As a child, I was totally obsessed with them. I found them so incredibly erotic and powerful, and would act them out on my own, in some kind of, I guess, proto-masturbatory fantasy world!

So what the show charts is my real-life attempts to reconnect with those powerful sexual influences of my youth in order to work out why the feeling I got from my adult sex life wasn’t matching it… I went to bodybuilding shows to try to pick up musclemen, I dissected the films themselves. I spoke to the two key players in that genre: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dolph Lundgren – at the same time as supporting Olive with all the questions she had about what was going on in her own burgeoning romance… And what emerges is a narrative about power, performance and sexuality. What does it mean to be sexually powerful, to have sexual agency? It’s also about mothers and daughters too, of course. I had never seen anything onstage or in literature about mothers and daughters having open and honest sexual conversations – and I certainly didn’t have that kind of conversation with my own mum when I was growing up! But I had Olive when I was nineteen, so I kind of grew up alongside her. It made sense for these things to be discussed with her too.

Rosy Carrick in Musclebound. Photo: Sharon Kilganno

Is it daunting to take those real life experiences and revisit them in this way on stage?

I mean, some of it felt extremely exposing, for sure. I was very anxious before the first previews. I share some details about my sexual history that had been a source of great shame to me for many years. But the reason I wanted to share them was because I knew I wasn’t alone in them, and they need to be made public discourse. A lot of women still feel a pressure to perform a kind of sexual satisfaction for the sake of their partners, so they can be seen as a “successful” lover, or so as not to hurt their partner’s feelings, or whatever the reason. And, aside from in a statistical manner, it’s rarely spoken about. So I bit the bullet and made my story public. However, the great thing about Musclebound is that, although I do bring these difficult things up later on in the show, in general it is a hugely funny and really quite mad story about a single woman going to any lengths to get laid by oiled up hunks, so that playful framework offers the right kind of context to share more vulnerable stuff in without it being weighed down by it… I’m kind of an obsessive person, I didn’t hold back and I recorded every part of the journey – it’s a wild ride!

Has there been anything that has surprised you about how people have reacted to the show?

The most amazing thing for me has been the number of emails I received after performances, mainly from women but from men too, telling me how much it meant to them to see a confident woman being so honest about sexual desire and sexual agency in a way they hadn’t seen before. I’m running a series of free workshops after the tour because I’m really keen to keep that conversation going.

What do you hope people take away from the show?

My hope is that people will be empowered to be open and honest about their sexual needs and desires – however niche or shameful they are – and to recognise that true power comes from speaking your truth, not going along with someone else’s. I also hope people will be inspired to watch the 1987 film Masters of The Universe! In the last couple of years, I’ve managed to push the Rotten Tomatoes rating up from 16% to 21%, purely, I think, by showing sexy clips in the show, and forcing people to watch it afterwards.. By the end of this tour I want to see reach at least 50%. That’s how I’ll really measure the success of Musclebound!

Musclebound plays Camden People’s Theatre on 24 February 2024, then touring:


Sat Feb 24th Camden People’s Theatre, London

Fri 1st March Front Room, Weston-Super-Mare

Sun 3rd March The Old Market, Brighton

Sat 9th March Norwich Theatre, Norwich

Thurs 14th March Theatre Deli, Sheffield

Fri 15th March CatStrand, Castle Douglas

Tues 19th March The Wardrobe Theatre, Bristol

Thurs 21st March Exeter Phoenix, Exeter

Fri 22nd March The Poly, Falmouth

Sat 23rd March Theatre Shop, Clevedon