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?"
'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.
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.
|Lighting Operation||Jeff Bone|
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 www.map-uk.org.