Saturday, January 31, 2009

Guardian-Royal Court acts fast with Gaza crisis play

Caryl Churchill says her new play
is 'a political event, not just a theatre event'.

By Mark Brown, arts correspondent

The Guardian, Saturday 24 January 2009

By any theatrical standards the latest play by Caryl Churchill has been remarkably speedy, going from pen to performance on a London stage in under a month.
The reason for the speed is Gaza. Churchill was so appalled by events there that she felt compelled to write, and the Royal Court theatre in London felt a duty to quickly produce her play, titled Seven Jewish Children - A Play for Gaza.

Churchill, one of the titans of British theatre, said: "Israel has done lots of terrible things in the past, but what happened in Gaza seemed particularly extreme." The play will be performed for free with a collection afterwards for the charity Medical Aid for Palestinians. After the London run Churchill will publish it online and allow anyone, anywhere to download it. "Anyone can perform it without acquiring the rights, as long as they do a collection for people in Gaza at the end of it."

Churchill added: "I wrote it last week; by this week I was arranging it with the Royal Court; it's now being cast; rehearsals are next week; and we perform it on 6 February. It's only a small play, 10 minutes long, but it's a way of looking at what's happened and to raise money for the people who've suffered there." That tickets are free is important to Churchill. "It came out of feeling strongly about what's happening in Gaza - it's a way of helping the people there. Everyone knows about Gaza, everyone is upset about it, and this play is something they could come to. It's a political event, not just a theatre event."

The Royal Court's artistic director, Dominic Cooke, who will direct, said one of the theatre's strengths was its willingness to react to events - but this was the quickest turnaround he had known. "I hope audiences will be moved by the play," he said. "I hope they'll be provoked, that they'll be made to think about the historical circumstances that have led us to the situation in the Middle East." Cooke said that Churchill, 70, had tackled a huge subject in "an incredibly distilled and economical way". And he paid tribute to a writer who had her first play performed at the Royal Court in 1972. "Caryl is one of the reasons why I wanted to work at the Royal Court," Cooke said.

Cooke's version will have a cast of nine or 10 actors. "It might be provocative. I'm not sure. My job is to get inside the meaning of the play; and you never really know how it might be received, to be honest." Cooke said it was an important subject, not just because of the humanitarian crisis but because of the ramifications on other multicultural societies, not least the UK. He said there was a real thirst for meaty theatre. "People really want to be encouraged to think, to be challenged. There was a period five or 10 years ago when the perceived wisdom was that everything had to be apolitical and escapist, and that has definitely changed."
The Royal Court had planned a response to Gaza, said Elyse Dodgson, head of the international department: "We were talking about what we would do, and then our most committed and brilliant playwright came along with a play ... It is not an attack on anyone, it is a cry of grief."

• The play will be performed nightly at 9pm between 6 and 21 February after Marius von Mayenburg's The Stone. Tickets will be available from the box office (020 7565 5000) - not online - from Monday.

Courtesy of Prof. (Marvin) Carlson's Tipsheet...

"Time Out New York announces the revival of My Name is Rachel Corrie, whose cancellation caused such a scandal at New York Theatre Workshop in 2006, as “a timely production, given recent events in Gaza.” It is by the More Code Theatre Company at the Kraine Theater, 85 East 4th St. Tel. 868-4444, Tix. $20. Timely it may be, but if some enterprising New York theatre REALLY wanted to be timely on this matter, they would think about offering the latest dramatic work actually on this subject, Caryl Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children—A play for Gaza which is opening Feb. 6 at the Royal Court Theatre, which also premiered Rachel Corrie. Churchill wrote and is mounting the play in lesst than a month out of her concern for the recent events in Gaza It is being performed free at the Royal Court with a collection for charity medical aid for Gaza after the performance. After the London run, Churchill will publish it online free for anyone to perform so long as they include a collection for the people of Gaza at the end. New York producers note."



  1. I absolutely LOVE Caryl Churchill. I was really bummed out that I don't live in NYC when they revived her play "Top Girls" on Broadway a while ago. Sigh.

  2. @UGDMP
    I know, her work is fucking amazing and this made me love her more. I updated this post, check it out. Looks like they are reviving My Name is Rachel Corrie...


    Move to New York. Brooklyn needs you.