Infinity Pool: A Modern Retelling of Madame Bovary

What to expect from Bea Roberts’ modern day update of Flaubert’s classic novel Madame Bovary? Instead of surrounding herself with romantic literature to distract her from the banality of provincial, rural France, Roberts’ Emma is an all too easily recognisable Bridget Jones-esque figure, believing she can buy herself happiness in the form of designer dresses and new shoes, and going so far as to reinvent herself with an online alter-ego.

On the technical level, it is very impressive.

It’s a clever and understandable adaptation. After all, modern readers remain fascinated by and identify with Flaubert’s Emma and her dreams of a life less ordinary – in today’s celebrity-obsessed, endlessly photoshopped world, it is hardly a surprise that the character and story continues to resonate. Roberts has clearly taken her inspiration from modern day cyber culture in which we’re bombarded with unrealistic images and impossible expectations, giving us the illusion of human connections whilst making us feel lonelier than ever. As such, Roberts’ Emma is deprived of a voice, with videos, projected images and synchronised onscreen dialogue used to tell the story. Using this technical wizardry, Roberts manages to recreate the multiple fictional worlds that we invent on the internet, from her illicit online messages to shopping sites filled with models she can only dream of being.

On the technical level, it is very impressive and an interesting insight into imaginative ways of using different types of projection as a storytelling device. But the nature of the performance is such that the audience is kept at arm’s length, and thus never fully engages or empathises with Emma. We only ever view her through a screen, and we’re aware that it’s never the real Emma we see. One has to give Roberts’ creativity some credit, but, unfortunately, the technical innovation isn’t a satisfactory substitute for proper engagement with Flaubert’s sad and deluded heroine.

Reviews by Liam Rees

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Performances

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The Blurb

Award-winning writer Bea Roberts tells a tender and truthful comedy like no other, using projectors, party rings and PowerPoint. Emails unopened, Cup-a-Soup undrunk, a secret in the stock room: Emma Barnicott pines for a world beyond her trading estate office. When she meets a man online, Emma must decide if a fantasy romance is worth trading an imperfect life for. 'A genuinely original approach to storytelling' **** (TheFixMagazine.com). **** (ExeuntMagazine.com). **** (StageTalkMagazine.com). Praise for previous work: 'Intensely funny… a small gem of a play' **** (Telegraph). 'A right little cracker' **** (Guardian).

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