FRINGE REVIEW – Sonica Presents Robbie Thomson’s Ecstatic


By Jen McGregor

If you ever have nightmares about a dystopian future in which the machines have taken over and are hunting for you, the last surviving human, the chances are you will find Ecstatic Arc utterly terrifying.

Go and see it anyway.

This installation piece, created by Robbie Thomson, is a thrilling opportunity to let your imagination run riot. The darkened stage is filled with what looks like scrap metal. Not a single human performer will put in an appearance. Instead, the machines grind slowly into life, waking up in fits and starts of sound and light. The clanking and screeching quickly becomes rhythmic and musical, blending recorded sound with that of the installation itself to create a complex world filled with nothing but machines. It’s a pareidoliac dream, inviting you to find faces and ascribe feelings to these inanimate objects.

The carillon of clattering metal builds to a climax, heralding the awakening of the Tesla coil. Set at the back of the stage amidst swirling fog and flickering lights, the Tesla coil emits brilliant purple rays while it sings. It has a surprising range as an instrument. This show will astonish you with the musical capacity of the objects involved and the sheer skill and ingenuity shown in the creation of the display. This is the moment when science looks and feels like magic.

There is no narrative other than the one you imagine as the lights, sound and moving metal transport you to a dream-like place. Nevertheless, the time flies by and the end of the show feels like a rude awakening. Ecstatic Arc is certainly among the Fringe’s more weird and wonderful offerings, and it is not to be missed.

Sonica Presents Robbie Thomson’s Ecstatic Arc runs at Summerhall until 25 August (not 21) at 19.00. Running time 50 minutes.

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