An estranged father, a disillusioned employee, a human case study, those behind the scenes – all yearning for more in a collective plea for help.
A joint collaboration between graduating students from NAFA’s BA (Hons) Performance Making cohort and directors Rei Poh and Goh Shou Yi, 0.01 is a non-linear exploration of interpersonal possibilities. The title is a reference to the distance between urban dwellers as postulated in the movie “Chungking Express”, akin to the quantification of our social networks to statistical degrees of separation. The show is entirely devised by its cast and creative team, and what this process has resulted in is a promising excavation of human connections — that remains nevertheless an etch on the surface.
The audience was greeted by a dark Studio Theatre as they entered – the soft glow of house lights barely illuminating the silhouettes of performers warming up with infectious excitement. We were seated in a traverse arrangement, which allowed us to face our fellow spectators across the breadth of the stage. The fourth walls of the space manifested itself as full-length PVC curtains, which served as a clear representation of the social ‘bubbles’ we find ourselves caged in. This visual motif of translucency was reiterated consistently in multiple aspects of the production. Both ends of the performance area were dominated by large stepped sculptures covered with crinkled plastic sheets, and uniform raincoats of a similar material appeared in the second half of the show.
0.01 begins with a self-introduction — an implosion of energy, the performers curtseying and straining to reach the audience through the plastic veil as they speak. We then journey through a series of expressionist ensemble sequences interspersed with everyday vignettes; focused snapshots of intimate conversations between characters that were taken at unspecified locations in their timelines. We watch familial relationships break down, and the formation of new alliances. The digital world isn’t left untouched either — its transience, and potential for deception, is dramatically portrayed in poignant scenes between a university student and their equally unwitting research subject.
Throughout the piece, audience members were encouraged to use a set of headphones to experience an additional acoustic layer to existing soundscapes in the room. Nevertheless, I found myself taking mine off more often than not, as I felt more of a connection with the production without it.
The performers’ multidisciplinary training was evident in their confident physicality, and delivery of the text. Some theatrical fragments that were particularly striking include a line-up of ‘patients’ rhythmically trudging along the perimeter of the stage, the progression of a pair of friends towards a meeting in person for the very first time (featuring tender performances from Jyanne Palaruan and Natalie Linn Titus), and the puppeteering of billowing paper-thin membranes in a final dream sequence.
The narrative structures within 0.01 are left to audience interpretation. Its cyclical construction allows for recurrent metaphors to emerge, and it would be intriguing to see how these moments of connection could continue to be clarified. The overall production felt more like a renewed acquaintance with the themes it meditates on, rather than a deeper provocation. The show’s proxemic interplay – the spatial relationship between performers, their characters, and the spectator – is a dynamic concept that uncovered interesting revelations about the way we have internalised ideas of personal space; these deconstructions could be worth investigating further.
The show is ultimately a celebration of a strong cast of performers, and a testament to the efforts of both co-creators and dramaturg Zee Wong in creating a space that enabled such a heartfelt sharing of experiences. Loneliness, distance, silence, comfort, and the stories in between — 0.01 invites the audience to take a closer look at what divides us, and to imagine what could happen when we cross that liminal boundary.
Note: This review contains some textual interventions by the reviewer, as explorations of the creative review format.
Critics Live by ArtsEquator will feature a post-show conversation about three shows at the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival? The session takes place live on Telegram on Monday, 24 January 2022, 8-9pm (GMT +8). Info here.
0.01 by Goh Shou Yi, Rei Poh and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts took place from 13 to 15 January 2022 at NAFA Studio Theatre. It was part of M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2022.