Seven children, seven groups of fearful parents, seven scenes of violence. In this rendition of Caryl Churchill’s controversial play, brief insight into the struggles of the Jewish people creates a backdrop of tense emotion and animosity, reflecting the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Seven Jewish Children (as brought to us by That Production Company) only clocks in at around fifteen minutes, but not one is wasted during this complex exploration of adult fear – quickly moving beyond the simplicity of concern for a child’s safety, rather examining a child’s loss of innocence as they discover an inherited history of war. In the face of bloodshed, should a parent omit the facts in order to spare a child’s naivete? Or should they embrace their history, proudly stake out their claim at any cost?
Regardless of any bias (or lack thereof) one might have on the existing conflict, the work has the extraordinary ability to tug at the heartstrings – this particular production does well in presenting alternate views through a combination of emotive video footage (interviews with the late Rachel Corrie) combined with driven, impassioned performances from the cast, especially during the explosive, rapid-fire finale. The intimate space available at Ipswich’s Dancing Tiger Studio is whitewashed to remove all distraction from the few actors and set pieces on stage, highlighting their abilities.
If your knowledge of the ongoing struggle is sparse, the impact of the performance may be reduced, but effort is made to alleviate this – projected imagery grounds the work in time and place, and the themes of helplessness, guilt, and hatred (as shown in relation to the instinctive desire for a community’s safety and happiness) prove universal. Somber music combined with the sounds of battle heighten the immersion of each scene, interspersed with moments of intricate posing, tender, dance-like – though a lack of focus during this modelling breaks the thrall the piece otherwise holds over the viewer.
As a standalone piece it’s a resounding success, powerful and engaging, though the short run time and (relatively) distant location may turn away some. If you have the means, it’s definitely worth your attention – a moving piece (though not unexpectedly so), handled with great care.
Reviewed by Jason Lomas
This review is based on the reviewer’s experience of the performance on May 16.