"To Tell or To Question?" Caryl Churchill's Seven Jewish Children: Theater as Witness to the Human Costs of Contemporary Conflict

DOI: https://dx.doi.org/

Abstract

Caryl Churchill’s play Seven Jewish Children—written as Churchill’s ardent response to the refusal of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) to broadcast an internationally backed appeal for aid relief for the Palestinian people––was one of the most controversial pieces of political theater to surface in Britain in 2009. The play caused widespread debate, around the politics of balance, objectivity, representation, and authorship. This paper explores the efficacy of political theater as a form of social commentary, where the “call” of Churchill’s play found an unsolicited “response” in Richard Sterling’s  Seven Other Children, a play mimicking Churchill’s style and content, but drawing on an Israeli perspective. Sterling’s stated quest to address issues of balance in political theater poses questions about the purpose of political theater, a dramatic form that, in itself, makes no claim to balance. The paper aligns this debate to Alexander’s (2011) thesis that social dramas draw on theatrical form to achieve symbolic power: real life events play out as dramas via media and other propaganda machines geared toward shaping the psyche of a people. The controversy that ensued surrounding both Churchill’s and Stirling’s plays could be said to have created its own social drama, within the theater and beyond, on the multiple platforms on which social performances are presented.

Keywords

Caryl Churchill, Gaza, political theatre, social drama, Seven Jewish Children

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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

The Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED) declares Kritika Kultura as a CHED-recognized journal under the Journal Challenge Category of its Journal Incentive Program.

International Board of Editors

Jan Baetens
Professor
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
Professor of Cultural Studies
Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faruk
Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
John Hawkes Professor of the Humanities and English
Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Professor of South Asian Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies
Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
Professor Emeritus and Honorary Lifetime Fellow
University of Cape Town (South Africa)
Honorary Professor and Research Associate in German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
National Artist for Literature
Professor Emeritus
University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
Director of the Division of Humanities
Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
Professorial Lecturer
Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)