Vigil brings together three multiple award-winning South African theatre luminaries for a season at the Fugard Studio Theatre in Cape Town, following the play’s Premiere on the Main Programme at this year’s Grahamstown National Arts Festival. Starring Graham Hopkins as Kemp and Vanessa Cooke as Grace, this brilliant black comedy is directed by Fleur du Cap Life-Time Achievement Award-Winner, Christopher Weare. The set and costumes are designed by Julia Anastasopolous.
Cape Town actors and producers, Susan Danford and Stephen Jennings proposed Vigil to The Grahamstown National Arts Festival for their 2013 season, and were thrilled to have it invited to be part of this year’s Main Festival Programme. Along with Vigil actor and fellow producer Graham Hopkins, they are now presenting it, direct from its Grahamstown premiere, at the Fugard Studio Theatre from mid-July. Thereafter, it moves to the Hilton Arts Festival. Susan and Stephen were last seen on the Fugard boards with Sir Anthony Sher in the sold out season of Arthur Miller’s Broken Glass that earned Susan a Fleur du Cap Best Actress nomination.
Since winning the Jessie Richardson Award for “Outstanding Original Play” this universally-embraced work, by Morris Panych, has gone on to be translated into 19 languages, and been performed in theatres from London’s West End to Tokyo, from Paris to New York. Hopkins’ Kemp is "a self professed neurotic”, a hilariously self-centred and shallow person who finds himself, through his own errors and inattentiveness, in a life-and-death situation with profound and far-reaching consequences. Cooke’s Grace is the aging aunt he has travelled cross-country to be with on her death-bed. But Kemp’s bedside manner leaves a lot to be desired: “I am concerned about your health these past few days. It seems to be improving.” Kemp. It’s a play of twisted circumstance and surprising turns, it is deliciously absurd, incredibly funny, and poignantly tender, and with a twist that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The humour is wicked, the observations sharp, the writing crisp and cutting, “a small masterpiece” (Globe and Mail). Morris Panych’s work is well known internationally and his plays have been performed to sold-out houses in the United States, Great Britain, Europe and Canada, where his work is always in demand. Both an award-winning author and director, Panych’s feel for the theatre comes from his own love of the acting profession; he has been a distinguished actor for decades, having appeared in more than fifty productions. Panych is a two time winner of the Canadian Governor-General’s Award.
Vigil’s incisive script has previously attracted actors of the calibre of Tony Award-winning Brent Carver and Oscar award-winning Olympia Dukakis. Its genius lies in its universality. In all of Panych’s writing he has striven not to locate his plays in a particular place or time. Responding to the question of why he thought Vigil has had such a long and international life, Panych commented: “the play addresses key issues many people face on a daily basis.” People everywhere deal with issues around the extended family, and taking care of the elderly, and Panych knows: “There isn’t a single person sitting in this theatre who won’t fundamentally understand (the) situation.. Every time there is a new production in another country, in another language, I think, “Wow, it’s being done in Tokyo”.
Vigil runs at the National Arts Festival from 5 to 7 July at the Victoria Theatre, and at the Fugard Studio Theatre in Cape Town from 13 July to 3 August 2013. Performances are nightly at 8pm with matinees on Saturdays at 4pm. Tickets from R120 to R160 via Computicket or 0214614554. Special discounts are available for the Friends of the Fugard.