Based largely on transcripts and documentary footage of the trial, the play Aalst recounts the brutal killing of two children by their parents in the Belgian town of Aalst in 1999. This article explores the ways in which this performance engages spectators as witnesses in a play of seduction and estrangement during which the concepts of ethical responsibility and judgment are destabilized and radically challenged. Drawing on the work of Hannah Arendt, Zygmunt Bauman, Arne Johan Vetlesen and Emmanuel Levinas a case is made for the importance of ambivalence as a productive mode of reading and responding to Aalst.
helena grehan (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Senior Lecturer in English and Creative Arts at Murdoch University, Perth, Western Australia. She is the author of Performance, Ethics and Spectatorship in a Global Age (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).