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Edinburgh Fringe 2016

Infinity Pool: A Modern Retelling of Madam Bovary

Bea Roberts

Genre: Devised, Experimental, New Writing, Performance Art

Venue: Bedlam Theatre


Low Down

Emma Barnicott, like her namesake in Madame Bovary, is bored with her provincial life. She 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.


Although this piece started life elsewhere – as a site specific piece in an office it does feel like one of those unexpected completely different things you find at the fringe. You are drawn in by the title ‘Madame Bovary’ and you think – ‘years since I read that, could be interesting’. And then find yourself in a parallel universe.

A play with no actors and no speech. Writer (and operator/performer) Bea Roberts wanted to create something ‘unmediated by actors’. The result is a story told through words on screens, images, sound, movement (mostly involving a duvet) live art…

In Flaubert’s original story Madame Bovary is bored with the husband she married to escape her stifling life on a farm. She lives beyond her means in order to escape the banalities and emptiness of provincial life and indulges in a series of affairs. Her modern counterpart, Emma Barnicott, feels much the same, trapped in a passionless marriage and a dead end job on the help desk of a plumbing supplier. But then what starts as an email complaining about the lack of a delivery turns into a witty exchange with a charming customer and suddenly there is the possibility that some of her fantasies might just come to pass. Unlike the original Emma, she does have some support in the real world in her friend Claire, bringing a different

The use of technology created some interesting ways to contribute to the story – words that dance around and flirt with each other on screen, or increase in size as the speaker gets more insistent, text we see typed and then erased revealing Emma’s thoughts and desires. As a counterpoint to the story being told in words there is a physical one as the stage becomes gradually more chaotic and strewn with the debris of Emma’s life.

There is a sound track of music and Emma’s inspirational Inner Goddess – the mid-atlantic drawl of a self improvement guru, some gems of lines that were almost lost as they tended to happen in the background of other activity.

You do need to keep your wits about you to keep track of what is happening which only adds to the absorption of the piece.

A thoroughly original and unique retelling of Flaubert’s work and a Must See – if you can get a ticket.