Infinite Life ★★★★ National Theatre | Until January 13, 2024

In Medieval woodcuts depicting the banquet of life, the revellers are unaware that Death sits in their midst as they delight in carnal pleasures. In contrast to that ignorance however, Annie Baker's new play, Infinite Life, deals with characters who have withdrawn from life's banquet and are fasting at a health spa as they try to cope with the chronic pain that is their knowledge of mortality. In the case of the protagonist, Sofi, her pain is ironically associated with her sexuality, so often the means of distraction from the finite nature of the physical world. The four women who are already at the spa when Sofi arrives act almost as a Greek chorus as we come to know her secrets and the source of her awareness of life's pain. Each member of the group is subtly drawn and humorously recognisable. Marylouise Burke, Mia Katigbak, Kristine Nielsen and Brenda Pressley all put in strong performances. Sofi herself is perceptively portrayed by Christina Kirk and her simultaneously prosaic and charged interactions with Pete Simpson are adroitly rendered. The play itself is reminiscent of Samuel Beckett's Happy Days and director, James Macdonald, has set a leisurely tempo that is quite perfect as the finely etched characters slowly reveal themselves and grope towards an understanding of what they are dealing with. It all makes for an excellent evening of theatre, and Sofi's quest for wisdom and comprehension in the ersatz Californian health resort is a journey that is definitely worth sharing.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Marc Brenner

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