British writer Caryl Churchill’s ten minute playlet ”Seven Jewish Children”( 7JC) is an artistic achievement that has multiple interpretations. It is art imposed over a political and religious context whereby the audience is drawn into the relationship between church, state, and modern power structures.
7JC has many similarities with Jonathan Swift’s ‘‘Tale of the Tub.”. Seven Jewish Children is Churchill’s response to the Gaza invasion of 2008 that realistically has little connection with the plight of this stateless people. Churchill is a talented writer of personal integrity but not above rising below her cause by letting a timely humanitarian crisis go to naught.
Tale of the Tub was a satire about digression and religious excess. The ”tub” is a metaphor for an event tossed over the side of the boat by sailors ( the ship of state) to divert attention from those who question the government and its right to rule. Swift called this the ” beast” referring to Thomas Hobbes book ”Leviathan”. The ship of state sought to preserve existing historical structures and institutional arrangements and thus offered a tub ( the palestinians) as a diversion in an act of self preservation and to mask their own religious excesses. If the play can’t be at least partially explained out of this phenomenon ,then 7JC is clearly racist.
The quality of the playlet is above issue, well assembled , and clever, even lyrical when well executed. It is minimalist in nature and Churchill has comprehensive knowledge of ”alienation” techniques made popular by Bertold Brecht. The issues of conflict resolution are relevent, but ultimately 7JC is art that divides, not unites, as the propaganda can’t be extricated from the artistic side and more progressive reflexes take a detour off the high road. The efforts at calculation are too obvious and transparent . These are stereotypical characters that are marked by a absence of redemptive qualities.
Whether 7JC is ultimately more articulate and socially relevent than National Kick a Ginger Day can only be surmised. It could be said that both 7JC and South Park are about of do-good western liberalism. Except, 7JC is to be swallowed as ”art” and the latter as gratuitous violence. 7JC is not a collection of bald- faced lies since the elements of dishonesty can be Pinteresquely ( Harold Pinter ) described as ”the more sophisticated verbal inveiglements of the upper classes”.