Manipulate: Ruins @ The Studio, Edinburgh

In Ruins, Megahertz and Feral Arts address the climate crisis through daring design, otherworldly choreography and the tight confines of a mesh cube

Review by Andrea Cabrera Luna | 22 Feb 2024
  • Ruins

One of the more technically ambitious shows at this year's Manipulate Festival, Megahertz’s Ruins features dancers Suzi Cunningham, Rita Hu, and Philip Alexander performing in a mesh cube, with beautiful animations projected onto it. The show is inspired by eco-feminist Donna Haraway’s book Staying with the Trouble, which deals with the challenges posed by ecological devastation and ways to coexist on Earth. 

A voice tells us there’s only a few humans left, and they collect grainy images of objects they used to make, such as a mighty corkscrew, symbolising both creativity and overconsumption. The three characters are uniformly dressed in light nude colours, suggesting a homogeneous representation of humanity. The cube’s spatial restriction forces dancers to invent new ways to move, serving as a metaphor for the challenges posed by limited resources. 

At one point, the characters attempt to get out, but despair keeps them in their place. The dance – directed by Bex Anson in collaboration with the performers – is executed with a combination of twitching, athletic, and Butoh-infused movements, adding an otherworldly element to the overall apocalyptic experience. 

Reminiscent of rave aesthetics, the mesmerising lighting combines primary colours and strobes, crafting an eerie and increasingly trippy atmosphere. This effect is juxtaposed by projections featuring organic surfaces, twigs, and human-made objects. 

As the performance unfolds, the projections transform into meandering doodles expanding beyond the confines of the cube, as if an external author outside the cube has lost the plot and started to draw frantically. Cucina Povera’s mournful score and glossolalia allows glimpses of faith and devotion. 

Overall, Ruins’ visualisation of climate apocalypse has a bravery and conviction that only a few are willing to face head-on. While the depiction of humans as a homogeneous mass, equally responsible for the climate crisis, could be approached with a more nuanced perspective, the dancers are excellent, and their singularity makes this show a must-see. /