We interviewed creator of Waves, Alice Mary Cooper, ahead of the New Zealand premiere season at the Auckland Arts Festival and are lucky enough to have a double pass to give away to the performance on Wednesday 9th March at the Q Loft Theatre. Read on for all the details!
Hi Mary Alice, could you please share a little of your background and where your idea for the show Waves originated?
I can't say exactly where it originated but I have always been a swimmer and in particular Butterfly was my stroke when I was young. When I lived in Sydney, before I moved to Edinburgh, I swam at the Fanny Durack pool in Summer Hill so I'm sure that was what got me thinking about pioneering female Australian swimmers.
I wrote a short story for a French magazine Jean Marie about a woman who grew up on Gabo island. Thinking about the island and how difficult, but exciting, it would have been to live there in the 1920's I began to get a strong sense of the kind of person who would thrive in that environment. Thus Elizabeth was born and the story grew from there, from her.
What made you decide to time hop between Australia of the 1930s and modern day Edinburgh and was it a challenge to stage this?
It came naturally during the development. I was living in Edinburgh while writing it and clearly influenced by my surroundings. I also wanted to make a point about how easily stories/people can be forgotten because- Liz's story was forgotten because she moved overseas and her story was thus lost.
The history of swimming is very interesting in the 1920's and 30's, you had a lot of experimentation and Butterfly was there in pieces (different swimmers did the kick or the arms but not together). There is a great Youtube clip from the 1936 Olympics where the three first place getters all do different styles of breastroke, which would later combine to make the Butterfly.
Staging wise it was a challenge initially when I was on my own- but then Gill Robertson came on board (my director) and everything became much easier!
When you wrote the short story, did you see it eventually becoming a play or did you see that possibility later on?
I think I write everything as a potential performance piece because I don't see myself as a writer, it's easier to write if I imagine I'm saying the words rather than writing them down- if that makes any sense?! To explain a bit further, when I first performed Waves at the Edinburgh Fringe I didn't have a script- I had 14 images in my mind and just told the story of them- it would have made me nervous to try and remember it as a script at that stage.
Within the pages of our magazine Glory Days we love to remember the past, champion long forgotten people and things and acknowledge how they have shaped the world we live in today. Was that some of your motivation for creating Waves?
You're magazine sounds great! Absolutely, yes. I love history. I love researching and discovering people and stories. I took real pleasure from learning all about early female swimmers in Australia, the development of all the strokes, the Olympics...it's was very hard to stop researching and start making a show!
What can the audience expect from your show? Will people laugh, cry, think or all three?!
Ooh, yes, possibly all three. It's not a sad story, but a number of people have cried in it. I hope it touches people in some way and they enjoy themselves.
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