In a cell in the middle of the stage, Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela approaches apartheid assassin, Eugene “Prime Evil” de Kock. The scene in the film immediately comes to mind, and a chained up De Kock cracks a joke about the situation being reminiscent of that scene, which in turn puts Gobodo-Madikizela at ease.
Noma Dumezweni plays Gobodo-Madikizela and Matthew Marsh plays De Kock in roles that require a mature approach. Gobodo-Madikizela, a psychologist, was a member of the Truth And Reconciliation Commission and interviewed De Kock, one of the most reviled figures of the apartheid era. De Kock is serving a 212-year sentence for crimes against humanity, murder, conspiracy to murder, attempted murder, assault, kidnapping, illegal possession of firearms, and fraud. Gobodo-Madikizela is determined to try to understand what motivated his actions.
That De Kock lets her in to speak to him immediately raises suspicions.Gobodo-Madikizela’s intentions go beyond academic study, but they are not thoroughly interrogated, although glimpses emerge here and there.
A Human Being Died That Night is also a historical story that delves back to the apartheid era and the atrocities committed there. Like Hannibal Lecter in The Silence Of The Lambs, De Kock becomes a likeable character. His “Prime Evil” nickname does not seem relevant. The story suggests that he was made the fall guy, with others giving the orders.
Credit must be given to Marsh for pulling off such a difficult character in so convincing a way. Perhaps prison had mellowed De Kock; perhaps it is all an act, but he appears to be nothing like the man the media describes.
This two-hander draws the viewer in and reveals a lot about its two characters.