At the BAM, New York

Pumla Gobodo-MadikizelaStudy Guides

The play begins at a conference in South Africa where Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela is addressing an unseen audience. As we see her slide presentation, featuring photographs of Auschwitz, the massacre in Rwanda, and Abu Ghraib, she describes how her views on evil and the possibilities of forgiveness were shaped by her prison interviews with Eugene de Kock, whose horrible acts during the apartheid era earned him the nickname “Prime Evil.” Although Pumla will occasionally address the audience directly at a few points in the play, the rest of the action consists of flashbacks to those interviews. The first interview, which occurred in 1997, begins with some awkward formalities. Here, Pumla expresses her discomfort in calling him “Eugene”; she tells him that this is because she has determined to not cross the line by allowing any emotional connection between them. Amused, de Kock compares the setting to the scene in The Silence of the Lambs where FBI agent Starling first meets Dr. Hannibal Lecter. de Kock tells her that unlike the serial killer in the film, he must not be simply dismissed as a monster; if he is merely human, other humans must account for his actions.