Aug 7 2016 | By More

★★★☆☆  Refreshing

Summerhall (Venue 26): Aug 5-28 2016
Review by Hugh Simpson

A cheerful directness and generosity of spirit permeate Waves at the Old Lab in Summerhall. However, there is an underdeveloped feel at times that threatens to detract from its fresh and infectious atmosphere.

Alice Mary Cooper’s one-woman show tells of Elizabeth Moncello, who apparently invented the butterfly stroke in swimming by copying the aquatic creatures around her. Tales of growing up in a small island off Victoria, Australia and sporting endeavours are cleverly mixed with references to Edinburgh.

Alice Mary Cooper. Image: Di Die Fo productions

Alice Mary Cooper. Image: Di Die Fo productions

Much of the publicity centres on it being a child-friendly show for age 8 plus – perhaps due to Cooper’s work with Imaginate and Catherine Wheels – but this is a little misleading. The piece does have the air of a hybrid. Cooper certainly has the open-faced approach of many performers of children’s shows (that can, as it occasionally does here, slide into over-earnestness). However, there are moments that could puzzle or distress younger audience members.

There are problems with the structure that are evident to all ages. The lop-sided, unfinished feel to the life story adds verisimilitude, but (spoiler alert) seems unnecessary in the case of a character who is entirely fictional. The temptation to include a ‘Rocky montage moment’, however ironically it is meant, should also have been firmly resisted.

Much of the storytelling is thoroughly effective, however. Cooper is an engaging performer whose rapport with the audience is obvious. She and director Gill Robertson make elegant use of the space, with clever use of simple props being particularly pleasing. Danny Krass’s sound design punctuates the story powerfully yet unobtrusively.

Even with the feeling that there is something missing, and that the intended audience for the show is unclear, there is much that is praiseworthy. The message of the show, that female sporting pioneers have been unjustly neglected, is all too real even if its central figure is not.

Running time: 50 minutes (no interval)
Summerhall (Venue 26), 1 Summerhall, EH9 1PL
Friday 5 – Sun 28 Aug 2016 (not Mons)
Daily at 10.10 am
Book tickets on the EdFringe website: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on#q=waves
Show website: http://alicemarycooper.com/waves
Twitter: @alicemarycooper
Facebook: alicemarycooperartist


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