Daehakro, Seoul. 3.12.2011
The stage lights faded up on four women and three men flanked by rows of white plastic chairs. Blank theatre faces broke into childish grins as the actors began to play a series of wordless games. Several playful minutes past before one of the actors spoke the plays first words:
Tell her it’s a game
Tell her it’s serious
But don’t frighten her
Don’t tell her they’ll kill her
And so began a Seoul based theatre group’s performance of Seven Jewish Children: a play for Gaza. The play is English playwright Caryl Churchill response to Operation Cast Lead, the 2008-9 Israeli attack on Gaza. It has a short and simple script, which can be found in full here, and very open directions. There are no specific characters and the lines can be shared amounts any number of actors. The play can be staged gratis as long as a after the performance donations for Medial Aid for Palestinians are collected.
Despite its name, and this interpretation’s playful introduction, no children appear in the performance. Rather, the dialogue concerns the frequently contradictory explanations that Jewish parental figures may have given their children over several generations, beginning in the Holocaust and ending in Cast Lead. In a often cryptic manner the dialogue touches on issues including of Jewish immigration, water usage and the Intifata.
The Seoul based theatre group’s performance was a rather complex interpretation of the open and minimalistic script, which utilised many non-verbal components, including using complex multimedia. Five camera’s were set up around the stage and were connected to data projectors that shone a combination of pre-recorded and live video footage onto a screen at the back of the stage. The live video feedback component of the production was well articulated and added layers and texture to the performance. Although, their use of multimedia even went as far as including pattern recognition software, which despite being in vogue on Planet iPhone, did not bring much extra to the performance.
The actors all performed very well treating their transient characters with compassion and integrity. I was particularly impressed by their singing abilities, which at one point were woven together in a cheerful yet haunting chorus. After the performance’s playful beginning, which was meet with laughter from a pair of children seated behind me, the performance hardened. It crescendoed with all seven actors fanatically looping lines all atop of one another, a mounting tangle of words and flashing images of war that could well frighten children.
“Don’t frighten her”
NB. A radically different interpretation of Seven Jewish Children, a one woman reading in fact, can be found here.