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A Human Being Died That Night

Hampstead Downstairs

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#1 Pharaoh's number 2

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Posted 14 June 2013 - 06:22 PM

At the risk of sounding like Charles Spencer, heaping praise onto most things I see, this is stunningly good. Nick Wright's new play based on the book of the same name by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, about her interviews with Eugene de Kock, a senior police colonel in apartheid South Africa now imprisoned for 212 years.

It starts in the foyer as Pumla delivers us a lecture on the human capacity to forgive evil, citing de Kock as a case study. Mid way through, as she starts to describe the prison cell where she interviewed on and off for 6 or 7 years, a door opens and we are led into the cell. Paul Wills; design is a cold metal floor, surrounded by a free standing cage, oppressively lit by Tim Mitchell. de Kock has shackles around his feet, sitting, head bowed.

And then the most thrilling and riveting 75 minutes begins. Gobodo-Madikizela interviewing de Kock, the psychological and emotional insights are fascinating, the dialogue is sharp and at times surprisingly funny. Others deeply moving, when Gobodo-Madikizela talks of her sister's battle with HIV, and when we hear of de Kock's attempts to ask for forgiveness from his victims' families. It's heavy going, definitely, but it's well worth the effort. You don't have to know much about apartheid South Africa to understand it. It transcends that, and its debate and discussion is applicable to almost anywhere.

And it boasts two of the finest performances I've seen this year in Noma Dumezweni and Matthew Marsh. It's just them for 75 minutes, I don't know how they do it. Dumezweni conjours up an incredible depth of emotion, but yet manages to maintain a cold distance from de Kock. And Matthew Marsh is simply astonishing. The accent and slight stutter is spot on, he has a determination to make the 'truth' known, yet sometimes the 'truth' for him is too much to bear. And at times it is too much for us to bear.

It ends tomorrow, and is now sold out, but I guess you can always queue for returns. Or go to South Africa. It tours there next year.



#2 Alf

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Posted 14 June 2013 - 06:59 PM

Guess it's gonna have to be South Africa then!
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#3 Coated peanut

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Posted 14 June 2013 - 07:30 PM

I quite liked it, and it really did seem to be over in no time which is quite an achievement for essentially watching 2 people sitting down and talking.

The 'promenade' bit of the performance felt a little pointless though, and I'm not just grumbling because I was early and had a good seat initially (also forgot about my sandwich which was gone by the time we filed out again....). It seemed to take a very long time to get everyone up and seated again, and by the time they started again I was thinking about my boiler, or possibly my sandwich, and it took a bit to get back into the play.

#4 The Glenbuck Laird

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Posted 15 June 2013 - 07:43 AM

View PostPharaoh, on 14 June 2013 - 06:22 PM, said:

At the risk of sounding like Charles Spencer, heaping praise onto most things I see, this is stunningly good. Nick Wright's new play based on the book of the same name by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, about her interviews with Eugene de Kock, a senior police colonel in apartheid South Africa now imprisoned for 212 years.

It starts in the foyer as Pumla delivers us a lecture on the human capacity to forgive evil, citing de Kock as a case study. Mid way through, as she starts to describe the prison cell where she interviewed on and off for 6 or 7 years, a door opens and we are led into the cell. Paul Wills; design is a cold metal floor, surrounded by a free standing cage, oppressively lit by Tim Mitchell. de Kock has shackles around his feet, sitting, head bowed.

And then the most thrilling and riveting 75 minutes begins. Gobodo-Madikizela interviewing de Kock, the psychological and emotional insights are fascinating, the dialogue is sharp and at times surprisingly funny. Others deeply moving, when Gobodo-Madikizela talks of her sister's battle with HIV, and when we hear of de Kock's attempts to ask for forgiveness from his victims' families. It's heavy going, definitely, but it's well worth the effort. You don't have to know much about apartheid South Africa to understand it. It transcends that, and its debate and discussion is applicable to almost anywhere.

And it boasts two of the finest performances I've seen this year in Noma Dumezweni and Matthew Marsh. It's just them for 75 minutes, I don't know how they do it. Dumezweni conjours up an incredible depth of emotion, but yet manages to maintain a cold distance from de Kock. And Matthew Marsh is simply astonishing. The accent and slight stutter is spot on, he has a determination to make the 'truth' known, yet sometimes the 'truth' for him is too much to bear. And at times it is too much for us to bear.

It ends tomorrow, and is now sold out, but I guess you can always queue for returns. Or go to South Africa. It tours there next year.
I like this post, a review that would have inspired me to go if the run was not ending





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