This ‘play’ by Bea Roberts is quite unlike any you might have seen before. Through the ingenious employment of an overhead projector, a duvet, a filing cabinet, some Pyrex dishes, and the well-considered use of Comic Sans, among other things, Infinity Pool tells a story loosely based on Gustave Flaubert’s classic novel Madame Bovary in a surprising and brilliant way.
Emma takes on a distinctly Bridget Jones air here: she is obsessed with losing weight, spends her working day daydreaming about glamour and romance, and is, all in all, a mess. But Roberts’ Emma, while taking on the ramshackle comedic quality of Helen Fielding’s character, retains all the deep dissatisfaction and pain of Flaubert’s original.
The unique medium of the play is the perfect expression of both the chaos of Emma’s internal life (the cluttered stage becomes progressively more strewn with assorted debris over the course of the performance) and the distance she feels between her ideal self and the life she has found herself living. It’s easy to believe that Emma does see herself as a sheet of acetate to smear with make-up, and perhaps she does experience all conversations with her over-enthusiastic boss as garish green subtitles on a black screen.
Infinity Pool manages to perfectly capture the disorder, boredom, fantasy, desperation, and panic Emma deals with minute-by-minute in her extraordinary capacity for being disgusted with her own ordinariness. It’s uncertain whether Roberts, dashing about the stage pressing things and shaking things, is supposed to be the little Emma inside her head, pulling the levers as it were, or some kind of apathetic driver steering the train of Emma’s life off the rails despite her attempts to stay on track. It’s fun to imagine either way, and Roberts’ dispassionate, unreadable expression throughout only adds to the strange hilarity of the performance.
This is a play that deserves all the positive attention it receives, and will leave lovers of the novel that inspired it feeling closer to Emma than ever before.