City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Waves, Traverse Theatre, Imaginate Review


By Justine Blundell - Posted on 17 May 2015

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Web Alice Mary Cooper presents Waves image Cristina Todaro.JPG
Show Details
Venue: 
Traverse Theatre
Company: 
Alice Mary Cooper (Scotland)
Production: 
Alice Mary Cooper (creator, co-designer), Danny Krass (sound designer), Lisa Sangster (co-designer), Gill Robertson (director), Alice Mary Cooper & Naomi O Kelly (script development), Louise Gilmour Wills (producing support).
Performers: 
Alice Mary Cooper
Running time: 
50mins

Waves, by Alice Mary Cooper, is a beautiful story told with touching simplicity.

This one-woman show begins with Alice picking up a newspaper and reading aloud an obituary for Elizabeth Moncello. It simply states that she died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 95. But of course, there is much more to the story of Elizabeth Moncello than that.

The story begins with Alice meeting Elizabeth, not long before she died, at a hospice in Edinburgh. A novice volunteer, Alice’s first job this particular night is to check that the pool area is tidy, the lights switched off and all locked up. She finds Elizabeth, and a friend of similar age, swimming naked in the pool at midnight. While ushering Elizabeth back to bed (all in Elizabeth’s own sweet time), they discover a mutual history. Both hail from Australia, but while Alice used to swim in the Fanny Durack pool back home, named after the world’s greatest female swimmer of her time, Elizabeth actually knew her.

Over the next few months Alice joins Elizabeth in her room for tea and hears her remarkable story, which she re-enacts for us. Growing up in the 1920’s on an island off the coast of Australia, Elizabeth, like all the 11 inhabitants of the island, couldn’t swim. After her younger brother drowns, Elizabeth gradually forms a relationship with the vast expanse of sea.

At first she stands on a rock of safety, daily shouting at the waves. By the time the story reaches it peak, Elizabeth has learnt to swim with fish, penguins and dolphins, copying their style and inventing her own, which came to be known as the butterfly stroke. The climax of the story – and the greatest moment so far of Elizabeth’s life – is her winning gold at the Berlin Olympics, coached by the legendary Fanny Durack.

Elizabeth’s remarkable life, however, does not end quite as the obituary states. Alice describes how, one day, she persuades a gullible member of staff to take her to North Berwick. Once there, she lets her bright pink, silk kimono fall to the sand, and dressed appropriately in her woollen bathing suit, she swims out to sea. She did die peacefully, but not in her sleep.

This production began as a short story, with Alice Mary Cooper wishing to pay homage to the incredible people whose lives go unrecorded, disappearing without trace. Alice tells the story with sensitivity and a gentle grace, managing to captivate the imaginations of her audience – from the young to the old.

Runs until 17th May