Wednesday, 5 June 2013

A Human Being Died That Night, 25 May 2013

Firstly, an apology.  I got into a habit of attempting to write reviews then forgetting them (or remembering them as their run had ended, so it has been a while. I also just haven't seen that much this year or certainly little of interest.

A Human Being Died That Night at Hampstead Downstairs is Nicholas Wright's return to Hampstead after the wonderful The Last of the Duchess in 2011, which I loved. This is very different, an adaptation of A Human Being Died That Night: A South African Story of Forgiveness by Dr Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, it looks at Gobodo-Madikizela's meetings with Eugene De Kock, a white policeman accused of the murders of many South Africans and refered to as "Prime Evil". It looks as forgiveness, suspicion and post-apartheid South Africa.

Noma Dumezweni and Matthew Marsh. Credit to Hampstead Theatre

It's strengths are the performances; Matthew Marsh as De Kock (and a frightenly accurate Afrikaners accents) who could easily play De Kock as a monster who regrets his incarceration but plays him a vulnerable man with a stutter, an abusive childhood and an indication of the insecurity of the Afrikaners that kept Apartheid going for decades and Noma Dumezweni as Gobodo-Madikizela, whose introduction outside the studio space could easily convince you that she was a psychologist and not an actress remembering lines. Wright doesn't paint either as perfect; she is understandably suspicious of white South Africans but pushes her anger towards Cape Town and Table Mountain, landscapes that were no go for a black South African in the townships and De Kock, who reveals, during a touching moment of sympathy where Gobodo touches his hand, that was the hand he used to kill people with.

At 80 minutes with no interval it doesn't sag like so many plays, it leaves you wanting more not just due to writing and performaces but in hope that a better understanding of South Africa, that has attempted forgiveness in the most public way with its Truth and Reconciliation committees and is suffering new issues such as AIDS amongst its poor black South Africans.

After the poor Travelling Light it is good to see Wright tackle the problems and roots to reconciliation in his homeland.

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