national Arts Festival Banner

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


(Graham Hopkins & Vanessa Cooke)

Graham Hopkins and Vanessa Cooke delight in this clever play. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Having missed it in Grahamstown, I was delighted to see that Vigil was on the excellent line-up of this year’s Witness Hilton Arts Festival. And even more delighted to see that my expectations of the production were more than justified.

Under the direction of Christopher Weare, Graham Hopkins and Vanessa Cooke handle Morris Panych’s award-winning and clever play with skill, humour, tenderness and pragmatism.

The set by Julia Anastasopolous, who also designed the costumes, gives you an idea of what is to come. Nearly everything is off-balance and seemingly tied together with a light cord.

This could relate to the mind of Kemp, a vague young man who rushes to his elderly aunt’s side after she writes to him saying that she is dying. His one object being that he’s going to make darned sure that he’s safely in her will.

However, he finds “Aunt Grace” in more robust health than he would like but this doesn’t stop him churning on about her funeral arrangements: what he’s going to wear, what he’s going to say and how tearful he can allow himself to be with her eulogy. As she appears bedbound, this even gives him the opportunity to measure her for her coffin!

Days pass and turn into weeks … months … and aunt is still hanging in there much to Kemp’s intense frustration. The play builds on a virtual one-sided conversation, leaving the audience to fill in the blanks.

While the lion’s share – at least 95% - of the dialogue is handled by Hopkins, Cooke has her own unspoken dialogue. A mere raise of the eyebrow, open-mouthed alarm, a weary smile, hesitant movements and looks of frustration speak volumes. This is a brilliant two-hander and hugely entertaining, despite its poignant ending. – Caroline Smart