national Arts Festival Banner

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


(Vanessa Cooke & Graham Hopkins)

Exquisitely funny and moving black tragic-comedy makes for terrific entertainment. (Review by Margaret von Klemperer)

Two characters: one almost completely silent and one extremely and often inappropriately talkative. These are the bare bones of Vigil, an exquisitely funny and moving black tragic-comedy. Graham Hopkins takes the role of a “dutiful” nephew who turns up at his aunt’s house in response to a letter she has sent him, after a long estrangement, to say she is dying. He’s keen for this to happen as soon as possible – almost as an opening gambit, he asks if she wants to be cremated.

The nephew obviously has an ulterior motive – maybe there’s something in this situation for him. The aunt, played by Vanessa Cooke, is silently alarmed by his arrival, and by many of his subsequent actions. Cooke’s performance is beautiful. Without saying anything, she manages by actions and facial expressions to convey a whole range of thoughts and emotions, and is also very very funny.

This death is a long time coming. The nephew, sitting by the window and commenting on the passing seasons and peculiar behaviour of the neighbours, particularly the elderly woman across the street who never moves from her chair, does his best to hurry things along. And at the same time, he reveals his own, sad history.

Not everything is quite what is seems, of course. There are moments towards the end that bring tears as well as laughter as the best theatre should. Hopkins delivers a tour de force as the “resoundingly unpopular”, crass nephew, while Cooke matches him and manipulates. It makes for terrific entertainment. – Margaret von Klemperer