Theatre review: Final instalment of experimental Decimal Points conjures dystopia

The cast of Decimal Points [INFINITY], the final instalment of Cake Theatrical Productions' experimental series spanning four years. -- PHOTO: CAKE THEATRICAL PRODUCTIONS
The cast of Decimal Points [INFINITY], the final instalment of Cake Theatrical Productions' experimental series spanning four years. -- PHOTO: CAKE THEATRICAL PRODUCTIONS

A monolithic structure takes pride of place in the Substation Theatre, towering over the performers and the audience who is seated on the floor. Fire engine-red, metallic and altogether imposing, the structure is a shrine and a fortress, lurching into life during the course of Decimal Points [INFINITY].

The final instalment of Cake Theatrical Productions' experimental series spanning four years, the hour-long performance is conceived by design collective neontights, director Mohd Fared Jainal and writer Michelle Tan. It immediately conjures a bleak dystopia, woven together with three distinct threads - one thick, one thin and one short.

There is Rizman Putra's Jesus Christ Superstar-type figure, lying supine with his legs suspended on a smaller version of the structure. He begins by coolly strumming the electric guitar, then performs some incredibly controlled manoeuvres as he contorts himself within the red frame. Tearing pages from a book, he sticks these together with tape and fortifies the frame, cocooning himself in the process.

This is happening alongside the physical hysterics of Pat Toh's and Tay Weiliang's eccentric Gemini pilgrims, orbiting around the structure as they go about the daily motions of brushing their teeth, exercising, reading the newspaper. Reiterations of this routine become increasingly frenzied, culminating in deranged laughter and the pair disrobing to white tracksuits. Toh and Tay launch into bad ecstasy-driven dancing, with the can-can and Travolta thrown in for good measure. 

This intoxicated exuberance dissipates any of the enigma surrounding the quirks in the pair's routine - how they methodically fold up a piece of cloth to wipe the structure, and the intensity with which they thumb through a large red book. 

It all descends into chaos and cliche, as Intriguant's swirling soundscape threatens to engulf the theatre. Explosions, a red flag - is this the apocalypse? 

There is the dog-eat-dog brutality of Toh towards Tay and the seemingly crushing weight of the frame pressing Putra to the ground. These glaring images are oft-seen tropes, and seem brash beside the calculated elegance of Nora Samosir's sinister Mary Poppins figure.

Early on, she pushes a shopping cart full of knick-knacks around the stage at a glacial pace, before driving it through the audience and sitting to watch the rest of the show unfold. However, she spins such a compelling web of mystery one wonders throughout if she will bolt up to rejoin the action.

The distinct threads of Decimal Points [INFINITY]are stitched into the fabric of Tan's text, titled Monolith, distributed post-show. The book certainly makes for a great souvenir, and it does shed some light on the wild ride the audience is taken on. But it makes one wonder about the decision to separate these elements and its efficacy.