Infinity Pool is a remarkable piece of theatre. Bea Roberts, the writer and perfomer, has finessed every element of the piece's communicative power, from the use of props and projections (including an overhead projector and a dildo), to the number of kisses used by the characters when they sign off a text. The piece is based on Flaubert's Madame Bovary but transfers the story to the modern day, where the "adulterous" Emma, living in the South West of England and working in a plumbing warehouse, is given a sympathetic portrayal where if at times you pity her, at others you want to cheer her on - but she is never the object of blame.
It is a piece with little linguistic content (we never hear Emma's voice), and what it does have is mainly in the form of exchanges which pop up on the screen in text (with different characters signified by different fonts and colours). The sense of character which is developed by Infinity Pool is therefore quite astonishing; Roberts has captured our use of language with such skill, and presented it with such ingenuity, that you feel as if you've witnessed every conversation in real life. In fact, you almost feel you've had the conversations yourself; the piece is immersive in a way which surely exceeds virtual reality, so subtle are the signifiers which Roberts uses to guide her viewer along the story.
Emma's make-up is applied to a translucent OHP sheet and projected on the back wall, and her drive to work is a series of slides with images of the road from the driver's POV. How do these uses of basic technology add up to such a gripping storytelling that the audience sits in rapture as we watch a powerpoint in Comic Sans? There is something magical which occurs when all Roberts' elements are combined. We are bathed in Emma's world of slightly bygone machines and annoying husbands, living her life and seeing the beauty of her raw emotions through projections, paper and old-school TVs.
Individually then, the language and the technology are crafted with intelligence and resourcefulness, but when they meet, there are moments which really shine. At one point, someone is talking at a party and the text is all squashed illegibly together. All of a sudden, the words spring into place and the text reads 'Sorry, sausage roll in my mouth!'. It's whip clever, funny and works.
Roberts' use of humour in the script is in general powerful; she captures the tired restlessness of the central character Emma with her sarcasm, which gives our anti-heroine realism. All of her interactions offer an insight and make the character so whole she feels like a friend.
I have never seen theatre like Infinity Pool and I can't adequately describe it. It is something genuinely special in terms of both format and content. There is always something to be gained from art which helps us understand someone else's headspace, which Infinity Pool does with infinite skill.