Seven Jewish Children fails to make the grade in girls’ school

By Leon Symons, March 12, 2009

Parents have stopped a north London school from producing two performances of the controversial play Seven Jewish Children.

The play, written by Caryl Churchill and billed as a history of Israel in 10 minutes, was due to be performed on Wednesday and Thursday this week at Palmers Green High School.

Performances were also due to take place in Cardiff, at the Welsh Assembly, and the Royal Welsh Academy of Music and Drama and in a number of venues in Ireland. But one performance in a hotel in the village of Kinsale was cancelled by the owner, who had not been told the play was to be performed.

The first Palmers Green High School parents knew of the performances was when they received a letter from the school saying that the play was being performed before the spring concert. It consists of a series of scenes where a group of Jewish parents tell unseen children about events that have shaped the history of Israel.

One parent, whose daughter is one of six Jewish pupils at the school, said: “I researched the play and I just could not believe it. Personally, I found it highly inflammatory. The more I researched it, the more I wondered how it got into such a school.”

She sent a letter of complaint and then, with her husband and another parent, met head teacher Christine Edmundson. They were told the play had been cancelled, but asked the head how the school had allowed it to be considered. They discovered that the idea to stage the play had come from one of the school’s Drama teachers.

Deputy head Denise Hammersley said: “I don’t think how the play came to be in the school really matters. We have taken advice and decided to pull it. It’s not going to be performed. I’m not happy to discuss it any further.” The school then cancelled a pre-arranged meeting between the parents and the drama teacher concerned.

In Kinsale, Maureen Mortimer, 70, owner of the Lord Kingsale pub and hotel, said a concert had been booked which she thought was for two bands.

“Then I started to get some nasty emails about a play, about which I knew nothing. So I went to the Garda [Irish police] with the man who booked my function hall but didn’t tell me about the play,” said Mrs Mortimer.

“They were going to make a collection for Gaza afterwards but they needed a licence from the police. The man who booked the hall claimed he didn’t know about the play either but he knew about the collection so he must have known about the play. I was angry because they tried to pull the wool over my eyes, so I cancelled it.”

Last updated: 12:11pm, March 17 2009