Broadway Baby Rating:
It is a remarkable opening. Initially there is a sense of confusion - Should we know Liz? - my brain doesn’t instantly tap into Cooper’s technique. But once you realise what is happening and embrace this fictionalised inclusion, a feeling roots you there in Cooper’s presence, denying any distraction from whatever else you might have been thinking about that morning. Cooper is convincing and charming enough to persuade even the most resistant audience member into becoming part of her tale.
However, once the story begins this feeling becomes lost. At least, I yearned for it to return. Cooper’s story is magical: the re-imagined tale of the invention of butterfly stroke, created by a woman whose relationship with water revolves around a tragedy experienced at the shore of her island home. It is told beautifully; Cooper is a performer and storyteller dedicated to instilling a sense of wonder in her audience. But I do wish more was made of our reasons for being there. I wanted to know how I knew Liz, why I needed to be there to hear about her life.
Perhaps this is a selfish request from such a sensitive and well-crafted piece. Such interesting experiences should be acknowledged and cultivated. As Cooper says good-bye and invites us to return to our normal lives - fictional and real - there is a sense that something very special has taken place, but also that this something doesn’t quite realise the emotional power that it contains. It’s not a waste, more an exciting glimpse of something truly beautiful just out of reach.
Alice Mary Cooper delivered one of the wackiest shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe last year: the acclaimed When Alice (Cooper) Met (Prince) Harry. So her follow-up is equally surprising, it’s an understated, straight storytelling piece about the inventor of swimming’s butterfly stroke.
We are all fellow mourners at the wake of an inspirational woman, Elizabeth. As her former careworker, Alice knew her better than many. And, over a cup of tea, she makes the most of her captive audience by telling us a few tales about how Elizabeth became a world-champion swimmer.
The set-up is promising and engaging, although Cooper’s exuberant performing style does make you question whether a careworker would really be so animated and overexcited at a former patient’s funeral. Nevertheless, the story, “both fairy tale and superhero journey”, is an enchanting one. Although pretty much entirely made-up, it is always utterly believable.
Tucked away in a little 15-seat room on the Free Fringe, you can’t help feeling like Cooper should be performing to much bigger crowds. The young theatremaker has officially proven that there is much more to her than the quirkiness she displayed last year. Waves demonstrates she is just as good at writing as she is at charming an audience.
Thanks to my lovely audience who braved 4 flights of stairs and a hot little room to the opening of #waves @edfringe @freefringefest- if that one lonely chair had not been there we would have made a sell out! Go team audience.