A Human Being Died That Night is making its U.S. premiere in the Fishman Space at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). This gripping post-apartheid drama is being presented by The Fugard Theatre and Eric Abraham.
The play, written by Nicholas Wright, is based on the book of the same title by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela. It is directed by Jonathan Munby and consists of only two characters (one of which is chained to a table) conducting a conversation set in Pretoria Central Prison. Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela (played by Olivier Award winner Noma Dumezweni), a psychologist who worked with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, is expressive and even empathizes with the man who slaughtered political leaders of the anti-apartheid movement. Eugene de Kock (played by Matthew Marsh) is a policeman who ran a counterterrorism unit with the primary focus of killing anti-apartheid leaders. With the affectionate nickname of “Prime Evil”, he is polite to the point of being absurd and reviewers maintain that his dry humor borders on charming. de Kock was granted parole earlier this year from two consecutive life sentences as well as 212 years for other crimes.
The play has a running time of 80 minutes but in that tiny slice of time you can truly see the unfolding of five years of what I dare to call an intimate relationship play out. Dumezweni brings an unbelievable sensitivity to the stage by trying to portray Gobodo-Madikizela as a woman of not only fierce strength but incredible patience and depth of character.
“A genuine apology focuses on the feelings of the other rather than on how the one who is apologizing is going to benefit in the end. It seeks to acknowledge full responsibility for an act, and does not use self-serving language to justify the behavior of the person asking forgiveness. A sincere apology does not seek to erase what was done. No amount of words can undo past wrongs. Nothing can ever reverse injustices committed against others. But an apology pronounced in the context of horrible acts has the potential for transformation. It clears or ‘settles’ the air in order to begin reconstructing the broken connections between two human beings.”
― Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, A Human Being Died That Night
A Human Being Died That Night is playing at BAM’s Fishman Space in Brooklyn, NY until June 21, 2015. Tickets are available at BAM!.org