Seven Jewish Children

Written by Caryl Churchill

Thursday 30th April to Saturday 2nd May 2009

Directed by Jacquie Penrose

Caryl Churchill wrote this ten-minute piece in response to the recent war in Gaza, and Bench Theatre present it, not as a judgement of the rights and wrongs of the conflict, but as a contribution to humanitarian relief and to ask the questions the play itself asks: "after so much violence and hatred how many wrongs make a right? And what do you tell the children?"

AuthorCaryl Churchill

Caryl Churchill (b 1938)

Caryl Churchill was born in London and grew up in the Lake District and in Montreal. She was educated at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, where she read English. 'Downstairs', her first play, was written while she was still at university. It was first staged in 1958 and won an award at the Sunday Times National Union of Students Drama Festival. She wrote a number of plays for BBC radio and 'The Judge's Wife' was televised by the BBC in 1972. 'Owners', her first professional stage production, premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in London in the same year.

Churchill was Resident Dramatist at the Royal Court between 1974 and 1975 and spent much of the 70s and 80s working with the theatre groups Joint Stock and Monstrous Regiment. Her work during this period includes 'Cloud Nine'. She has won many writing awards during her career including an Olivier Award, several Susan Smith Blackburn Prizes, and multiple Obie and Evening Standard Awards.

PlaySeven Jewish Children

'Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza' is a 10-minute play which Caryl Churchill wrote in response to the 2008-2009 Israel military strike on Gaza. It was first performed at London's Royal Court Theatre in February 2009 and the playwright has allowed anyone to perform it gratis, so long as they hold a collection for the people of Gaza at the end of the performance, with proceeds to be sent to Medical Aid for Palestinians.

The play consists of seven scenes spread over roughly seventy years, in which Jewish adults discuss what, or whether, their children should be told about certain events in recent Jewish history that the play alludes to only indirectly. These include The Holocaust, Jewish immigration to Palestine and the creation of Israel. The dialogue takes the form of a litany, repeating the phrases "Tell her", "Don't tell her" to reflect the tension within Israel and the Jewish community over how to describe events in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The playwright has not specified how many actors should perform the piece, and it has even been staged as a monologue. The play has received criticism by being described as anti-semitic, such criticism has been countered with claims that it is critical of Israeli government policy, not of Jews.

The script is available as a downloadable PDF.

The Bench Production

Seven Jewish Children poster image

This short play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977. It was staged as a charity fringe performance on two of the nights following Closer and on its own as a matinee on Saturday. No charge was made for the audience, but a collection was made after each performance in aid of Medical Aid for Palestine.


1Ingrid Corrigan
2Callum West
3David Penrose
4Zoë Chapman
5Vincent Adams
6Jeff Bone
7Terry Smyth
8Lorraine Galliers
9Barbara Netherwood


Director Jacquie Penrose
Producer David Penrose
Lighting Operation Jeff Bone

Director's Notes

Like most people I was horrified by the stories and images coming from Gaza in January this year. I was struck by the power of Caryl Churchill's swift response, in part because it is cast in the form of contradictions rather than answers, and it is drama not polemic. (And shame on the BBC for not knowing the difference when they declined the offer to broadcast it). For myself, I find it impossible to see the conflict in terms of black and white - the more I look into the background, the more it seems a series of what ifs, if onlys, and how could theys? The actions of the Israeli army, sanctioned no doubt by their government, were shocking. But uniquely shocking? That is less certain - they displayed the mind-set of occupying forces down the ages. And are the Palestinians wholly innocent? Is Hamas the villain? When did the cycle of persecution and revenge really start? So many questions. If only... But the bottom line is that thousands of ordinary people are suffering cruelly as a result.

At Caryl Churchill's request, a cash collection will be taken for Medical Aid for Palestine at the end of the performance. You may also like to donate using the form on the reverse of the programme. Hand your form to a member of the company, or take it to post direct. For more information go to

Jacquie Penrose