Review: Waves, Derby Theatre

Picture by Cristina Todaro

Waves is a beautiful piece of theatre that tells the story of Elizabeth Moncello, Australian Olympic swimmer and unofficial inventor of the butterfly stroke. Before seeing the production, I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know anything about Elizabeth Moncello, and I was eager to know what kind of story would be told about her.

I was not disappointed. We were taken on a journey through Elizabeth’s life through the eyes of the narrator, the former carer of Ms Moncello in her old age. Alice Mary Cooper’s performance was energetic, funny and passionate all at the same time, splashed with moments of raw emotion.

We travelled from the drowning of Elizabeth’s brother, through her time spent copying the animals to learn how to swim, to her winning gold on the Olympics team, and eventually dying.

The clever combination of acting, lighting and sound had me on the edge of my seat as the tension rose and fell. One particularly poignant moment for me was when Elizabeth’s dream of being like the little mermaid and saving a prince was reached when she ended up saving hundreds of World War II soldiers by teaching them to swim.

The ending was also stunning. The lights faded to black around us as the elderly Elizabeth swam out to sea for the last time, so all we could hear were her breaths – and then silence. It gave me goose-bumps.

Waves is clearly a work of passion by the writer and actress, Alice Mary Cooper, and I felt it through every line and action of the play. I left Derby Theatre feeling a little better for having learned about the great woman that was Elizabeth Moncello.

Derby was only the first stop of a nation-wide tour, with further performances in Scotland and Ireland throughout spring and summer. For more information, go to www.maryalicecooper.com.

By Bethany Morledge