Infinity Pool by Bea Roberts is a subtly heart breaking piece that explores love, and the various emotions connected to it; happiness, attraction, lust, passion, obsession, rejection, shame. All with modest, and seemingly unintentional comedy.
Roberts presents the life of Emma Barnicott through a series of exchanges, conversations, imaginations, and an attempt at masturbation; which was an excellent opening scene – all through the use of projectors, monitors, audio recordings and a random selection of props. Overall creating a beautiful but strangely real notion of a person, yet because there is no live speech we are left to fill in some blanks about who Emma is.
Infinity Pool is inspired by Madame Bovary, and really it is a very good modern adaptation that is incredibly relevant to our social media and digitally distracted lives. All the dialogue was displayed on screens, really emphasising the time spent on finding just the right words, which is in line with Flaubert’s quest for perfection.
Emma is in a dead-end job that she doesn’t seem to like, she has one daughter who is on the other side of the world having the time of her life, and Emma’s husband seems to have lost any passion he once had for her.
Through an innocent exchange of emails, as part of Emma’s job on the help desk of a bathroom and plumbing supply, company Emma begins on online affair. Flirting through email, and then moving on to instant messaging, she knows it is wrong but like anyone having an affair, there is an attraction that she can’t resist.
Emma also has other secrets she keeps from her husband, and an inner fantasy which reminds me a little of Muriel from Muriel’s Wedding. There is something a little depressing about her awakening from her delusion, and have to face a decision over whether to take her affair in to the real world, and suffer the consequences, or not. Although this only dawned on me as I left the theatre, as it is also really funny at times.
The incredible array of kit that Roberts uses to tell the story is really incredible, and it was all (or so it seemed) controlled by Roberts live on stage in real-time. There is real skill in coordinating two projectors – one overhead, three laptops, one monitor, a microphone and probably more. She created a sound scape to Emma’s life, and presents snapshots which created some kind of middle ground between live theatre and TV.
We never know what Emma looks like, although through a series of flirty photos she exchanges, we see female hands with painted fingernail, feet in high heels, a neck. So this gave the opposite to what most plays do, no visual of the person, but in incredibly detailed visual of her surroundings, through her eyes. As though we are Emma.
This is very different to anything I have seen recently, and is a refreshingly good use of multimedia in live performance. Bea Roberts did not let the tech be the star of the show, and made sure each clever visual trick, image, projection really contributed to the story.
Tonight is the last night of its current run – so dash down to the Tobacco Factory Theatre now! Or, after its sucessful tour of the South West, which included the Plymouth Fringe, I hope that the tour will continue.