Controversial drama about Gaza bombing to get Irish staging

 

IT IGNITED a war of words when it was staged at the Royal Court Theatre in London last month: now Caryl Churchill’s controversial 10-minute play Seven Jewish Children is to be given a series of stagings in Dublin and Kinsale.

Churchill (70) wrote the piece as a response to the Israeli bombing campaign in Gaza in January. The script can be downloaded from the internet free of charge, but theatre companies must apply for the right to stage it. No admission fee may be charged, and all proceeds must go to the Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) charity.

Billed as a 10-minute history of Israel, the play consists of seven short scenes in which Israeli parents debate how much to tell their children about various historical events, beginning with the Holocaust and ending with the recent conflagration in Gaza.

“People are either embracing it or moving very swiftly away from it,” says Jody O’Neill of Project Brand New, the theatre initiative co-ordinating the Irish events. “It has had a very immediate impact. I find it interesting that people are almost angrier about somebody having written a play than about some of the events it describes.”

In his four-star review the Guardian’s theatre critic, Michael Billington, said “the play solves nothing, but shows theatre’s power to heighten consciousness and articulate moral outrage”.

In a lengthy essay on anti-Semitism in the Independent, however, Howard Jacobson described the piece as “wantonly inflammatory” and “Jew-hating pure and simple”. In the Spectator, Melanie Phillips accused Churchill of “perpetrating incendiary lies about Israel” and “drawing upon an atavistic hatred of the Jews”.

The spokesman of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Mark Frazier, told the Jewish Chronicle: “We knew the play was going to be horrifically anti-Israel because Caryl Churchill is a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.”

He added that the title – Seven Jewish Children, rather than Seven Israeli Children – “pushes it beyond the boundaries of reasonable political discourse”.

“It’s a play,” says O’Neill. “And a play without conflict is not going to be dramatic. I can completely understand that people will have a strong reaction to it, but I don’t think it’s anti-Semitic in any way. And I don’t think a playwright should be censored. Caryl Churchill is not a political figure: she hasn’t taken her play into parliament, and she’s certainly not trying to censor any of the responses to her work.”

Tomorrow, it will be staged at: St Stephen’s Green, at 2pm, directed by Duncan Molloy; the Temple Bar Square Book Market, between 2pm and 4pm, and at Piedescalso Art Cafe, Thomas Street at 6.30pm and 7.30pm, performed by the Shining Eyes Theatre Company and directed by Hilary Cotter; and the Project Arts Centre, at 9.30pm, following the preview of Solemn Mass for a Full Moon in Summer, directed by Lynne Parker. On Sunday, it will be on at Bewley’s Cafe Theatre, at 3pm, staged by Mirari Productions and directed by Maisie Lee. There are also performances at the Peacock Theatre from Thursday and at Vicar Street on March 16th.

On Wednesday. it will be performed around Kinsale.

The script of Seven Jewish Children can be downloaded from www.royalcourttheatre.com. For updates on performances, contact projectbrandnew@gmail.com

**A group of Irish people is attempting to reach Gaza by boat in time for St Patrick’s Day.

Spokeswoman Elaine Daly said some of the group were members of the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC), “but the trip is non-party political and organised independently of the IPSC”.

Ms Daly said she and 19 others hoped to set sail from Cyprus on a “Free Gaza siege-breaking boat” on March 14th and arrive in Gaza port a day or two later.