For its first production, the Spirithouse Theatre Company has chosen a play that grabs the audience’s attention straight away with its outrageous scenario. The play is Canadian playwright Morris Panych’s 1995 play, ‘Vigil’.
‘Vigil’ opens with a young man, Kemp, performing a vigil at his dying auntie’s, Grace’s, bedside. This however is no sentimental vigil with the nephew begging his aunt to hang on, desperate to spend more time with her. Quite the contrary…Kemp wants Grace to hurry up and die, he has to get back to his job at the bank, and doesn’t have the time or the desire to hang around.
Grace’s demise isn’t quick, and drags on month after month, even over a Christmas. Kemp becomes increasingly frustrated and aggressive. He gets a measuring tape and starts to work out what the dimensions of her coffin need to be. At another time, he brings onto the stage a suicide machine whereby Grace can take her own life.
Susanna Dowling’s production of Panech’s absurdist piece is an engaging night in the theatre. Dowling’s production focuses on the play’s main strand, the shifts and changes taking place within Kemp and Grace’s quirky ‘relationship’. A favourite moment from the play is when, at one time, Grace cheekily sneaks having a cigarette whilst Kemp is out of sight.
The two actors make the most of the strong roles that the playwright has given them.
WAAPA graduate Travis Cotton gives a tremendous performance as Kemp, an angry young man who is acting out because of the heartbreaks he has experienced, but who thinks deeply about life and wants something better.
At first, he comes across as a deeply abusive young man with nothing to save him. The play reveals him as a deep thinker whose bitterness comes about from being hurt so much in life.
Gertraud Ingeborg impresses in the challenging role of Grace, in a part that sees her mute for much of the play. Ingeborg imbues her character with plenty of feistiness.
Grace’s single bed dominates Tom Bannerman and Craig Keyser’s compact set. From the theatre’s upper level, musician Ekrem Mulayim, playing cymbals, complemented the storyline.
‘Vigil’ plays the Old Fitzroy theatre until March 28, 2009.
16th March, 2009