Rules to Live By / Eidos ★★★★

Suzi Cunningham’s anarchic dance-performance double bill arrives at the Manipulate Festival

Part of Edinburgh’s Manipulate Festival, live performance artist Suzi Cunningham, presents this double bill of dance theatre exploring anarchy, punk music, heroism, and the influence of idolatry and loss.

Rules to Live By was conceived in 2018 after the death of one of Cunningham’s teenage idols, The Fall’s Mark E. Smith. After delivering a spontaneous tribute dance on the night of his death, the artist subsequently developed the performance to explore some of the characteristics Smith was most renowned for: uncompromising ideas, heroism, hedonism and dark humour.

Similarity, Eidos is her tribute to another idol, Cunningham’s late grandmother. Another one who embodied the punk lifestyle, she is billed as “Suzi’s personal Vivienne Westwood”.

Highly influenced by the avant garde Japanese dance form of Butoh, both of these short performances examine the dual realities of anguish and rapture, making extensive use of a range of props made of material such as wood, fabric, plastic and food stuffs. Cunningham’s interest in the natural world and its relationship with manufactured materials is obvious throughout. 

Image by Chantal-Guevara

Cunningham’s performance is never less than fully committed, contorting her form and delivering facial expressions in a way that dialogue is rendered unnecessary. Indeed, the choreography is bewitching throughout, boasting several highly original and inventive movements. 

Given the inspirations, the soundtrack is a key character of both shows. Additionally, humour is used throughout the performances to punctuate the intensity. That said, when Cunningham emerges from at the end of one sequence in full Butoh costume, the sense of unease rippling through the audience is palpable. 

By turns exhilarating, unnerving, amusing and touching, Cunningham is an extraordinary physical presence, and both of these shows give her ample space to showcase her gift for performance. 

Cunningham’s highly personal double bill receives ★★★★ 4 stars from The Recs

Manipulate Festival Tickets

The Manipulate Festival runs until 12 February

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