Controversial play performed in Perth

May 16, 2010 by J-Wire
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Seven Jewish Children. the play which created controversy when shown in Melbourne and Sydney, was performed in Perth last night.

The city’s Jewish Issues Group has protested against the performance and submitted this report….

Last night about 150 people stood in protest outside the theatre in North Perth against the performance of the play.  Leaflets were handed out to members of the audience.  One or two heated verbal exchanges flared up, but quickly subsided.  Nothing got out of hand and the entire evening was no more other than a responsible and peaceful protest.

There are only 200 seats in the hall.  The crowd outside was about 300 people, so my estimate would be that there were about the same number of protesters as there were members of the public.  Despite the Friends of Palestine claims that the event was a sellout, there were certainly no signs of people turned away due to a full house.  This point is really important for two reasons.  Firstly – person for person we confronted and matched them in numbers.  Secondly, because despite all the media attention including the West Australian, it did not spark mass interest in people seeing the production.

Another big positive was that a number of people were engaged in dialogue over the play, and patrons of the event were genuinely surprised by the level of passion expressed by those taking a stand against it.  We heard  good honest discussion, most of it very respectful.

After the doors of the hall were shut, Navit (from the State Zionist Council) thanked everyone who remained outside for taking a stand and making their presence felt, which was well applauded.  Hatikvah was also sung.

The media interviewed and took statements from the protestors.

That the community responded to this need to make our presence felt, and to do so in a peaceful and dignified way, was really important.

There are lots of different opinions, and many people maintained that this issue “was not the most significant matter upon which a stand needed to be taken”.  That may perhaps be true, but I strongly maintain that once it did become thrust into the public spotlight, we needed to be seen and heard.  That is exactly what happened tonight, and I would like to congratulate each and every person who had the conviction to front up and protest.

The controversial play “Seven Jewish Children”  which spans Israel’s history from the Holocaust to the 2008/9 Gaza War seen from the perspective of children is one of twelve finalists in this year’s Sydney’s Short+Sweet drama festival.


Seven Jewish Children

The play’s full title is “Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza” and was written by English playwright Caryl Churchill who has made a condition of performance the presence of a bucket for donations to the Gaza Hospital.

This was be the play’s fifth performance in Australia. It invoked controversy when first perormed in Melbourne featuring well-known actors Max Gillies and Miriam Margolyes and featured at last year’s Limmud-Oz in Sydney performed by an all-Jewish cast.

The Jewish Community Council of Western Australia had stated that it was offended that the play was performed on public property. The Jewish Issues Watch had published the following background when seeking signatures for a petition against the play’s performance…

This petition concerns the play “Seven Jewish Children” and its proposed staging in the Town of Vincent, Perth, Western Australia.

The playwright, Caryl Churchill, is a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. She wrote the play within a few days of the Gaza war and intended it as a political statement. Her own statement confirms that the play is a “political event”, and not theatre alone.

An article by a prominent columnist, Melanie Phillips, in The Spectator (London) stated the concerns well and concluded as follows – “This is an open vilification of the Jewish people, not merely repeatedly perpetrating incendiary lies about Israel but demonstrably and openly drawing upon an atavistic hatred of the Jews. It is sickening and dreadful beyond measure that the Royal Court theatre is staging this. It is not a contribution to a necessarily polarised and emotional debate. It is open incitement to hatred.”

Several recent attempts have been made to host this play in Perth. On each occasion the custodian of the facilities concerned have responded to the sensitivities of those who are offended by the play. They have exercised moral courage and have cancelled the performance.

This play is racial vilification, which is illegal in Australia. These words should not be heard at the North Perth Town Hall, or anywhere. Debate on issues such as the Middle East peace process can occur without portraying Jews as being cold-hearted murderers of innocent people, a clear inversion of the truth.

The Town of Vincent states that one of its guiding values is to exerise “caring and empathy” and their key actions direct the Town to “celebrate cultural and social diversity”. By permitting their facilities to be used to promote hate speech, and by disregarding the sensitivities of the local Jewish community, the Town of Vincent is acting contrary to its values.

We implore the Town of Vincent to cancel the booking of its facility and thereby protect public facilities from being used for rascist expression. The Town has a duty of care to its ratepayers to act responsibly and in accordance with the values of cultural harmony upon which Australia was built.


One Response to “Controversial play performed in Perth”
  1. Well done to the 300 protesters. There should never be a performance of this racist play where no-one protests outside.

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