Ruxy Cantir: Pickled Republic (3 stars)

Ruxy Cantir: Pickled Republic

credit: Andy Catlin

Manipulate 2020: Postcards into the grotesque and the absurd from the physical theatre maker

A sexy cabaret performer enthralls in pink satin, lip-syncing into a glowing microphone and draping herself over members of the audience, until she realises her head is a giant potato. Fifteen minutes later, a tomato is forced to witness the demise of his comrades on an endless loop. These strange portraits are two segments from a larger work-in-progress by Glasgow-based physical theatre performer Ruxy Cantir, the featured artist at Tuesday's edition of Cabaret @ Manipulate, which sees the Summerhall café transformed into the festival's late-night informal performance showcase.

Cantir is an undeniably beguiling performer, even when generating an atmosphere of uneasy queasiness. As the potato-headed singer, her languid, wordless physicality shifts registers between seduction and horror with a delicate subtlety, yet also manages to overwhelm the room with a sense of existential dread. The tomato massacre is an altogether more jolly affair, complete with bouncing fruit and jokes about pizza. Its relentless pace, however, which drives much of its comedy, seems to lose its nerve near the middle and thus robs the climax of its edge.

But no matter how weird things get, Cantir's audience remains fully on board, delighting in her pitch-black humour and pulpy carnage. Transferring from tonight's open, casual environment to a more formal stage will be quite the leap, but Cantir's ability and the confident absurdity of Pickled Republic so far shows great promise.

Reviewed at Summerhall, Edinburgh.

Manipulate Festival

Puppet Animation Scotland collates a collection of world-class animation, puppetry and related performing arts of all styles and techniques from a range of international artists and companies. The 2020 event features late-night music events, café-cabarets, workshops and more.

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