A Manchester Girlhood

The play, rooted in my family’s history, is based on the lives of three Manchester Jewish women and their Romanian immigrant mother.

In Bucharest 1910, Esther Goldenberg has been forced to marry Emanuel Jacobs. He is her parents’ choice. The two young Romanian Jews go to Manchester and have three daughters, Isabel, Edith and Pearl.   Isabel’s only ambition is to be a doctor’s wife. Edith becomes a soldier. Pearl marries a GI. These three sisters are at the heart of the drama. 

This dream like – text explores the idea that each person relives intense moments from a whole life in the moment before death. 

Characters are seen both as children, young, mature and elderly women. This is not a linear drama. It is a mosaic that collages intense experiences within the outer drama of world events including World War Two and racism in the US.  

The play explores the importance of women’s education, marriage and unexplored, erotic desire. These unknown women’s experiences offer the audience a sense of the large political framework through the lives of the unheard.  The total effect is to expose the boundless energy of women who have not been allowed the education to fulfil their brilliant potential. 


I don’t want to be the daughter of foreigners. Daughter of the enemies. I want to speak Shakespeare and Milton. And Henry Longfellow and mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy. But my parents are foreigners. An albatross around my neck. ‘A painted ship upon a painted ocean’. How can they be enemies? They are Jews. The House of Israel in England’s Green and Pleasant. God save the King. The King? But I hate privilege. I hate bending my knee. A ‘subject’? I am a freeborn Englishwoman. I am as good as anyone whose parents were born here. I am British and I love being British. I don’t speak Romanian. I don’t speak Yiddish. I speak the king’s English. I am going to be a Christian. But they tell me that the Jews killed their Lord. I mean my Lord. But Jesus was a Jew. Why would a Jew kill Jesus son of the carpenter, Jesus was a teacher not a god. He was killed by the Romans for making trouble. The Romans crucified Jesus and Jesus was a Jew. I love Christianity but I am a Jew. Hitler says so. Four Jewish grandparents makes me a Jew. But I can turn away. I can be a Christian. Jesus I love you. Will you love me?



A Manchester Girlhood.

Blackpool’s Old Electric Theatre

Manchester’s Jewish Museum

Burgh House, Hampstead, Camden, London

JW3, Camden, London

Pascal Theatre Company’s spring mini-tour to Blackpool and Manchester was highly successful.  Taking the roles of the three sisters, Pearl, Edith and Isabel were Amanda Maud, Giselle Wolf and Lesley Lightfoot. Their parents Esther and Emanuel were played by Rosie Yadid and Eoin O’Dubhghaill. Eoin also played several male roles.  

The filming of A Manchester Girlhood is available on request for educational purposes.

Contact admin@pascal-theatre.com

Listen to the soundtrack

Photos by Chris Payne

Photos by Claire Griffiths

interviews and reviews:

The Jewish Chronicle:  Julia Pascal interviewed about A Manchester Girlhood 21 April 2023

Women were invisible, I’ve put them on stage.  Playwright Julia Pascal tells the stories of her grandmother, mother and aunts, all marginalised and denied chances in their own time.  These are not idealised women or female, Jewish stereotypes, they are nuanced Jewish characters who reflect important crucial events in British and international history. PressReader.com – Digital Newspaper & Magazine Subscriptions

“A brilliant piece of theatre.” Lost In Theatreland

“Joyous and poignant and funny and sad.” HonoraryMancBlog

“Brilliantly emotive and educational.” Lost In Theatreland

“One of the main takeaways from this piece was Pascal’s dedication to telling female stories, empowering all the women in the play.” Lost In Theatreland

“Pascal’s work tugs at the heartstrings, offering a voice for their untold stories, as the girls navigate education, marriage, love, religion, and identity.” Lost In Theatreland

“This play really put things into perspective of our lives and what our immigrant parents went through to get us where we are today and Pascal captured that in A Manchester Girlhood.” I Love Manchester

“A Manchester Girlhood ‘moves in time and space’…The characters depicted as ‘children, young, mature and elderly women’…it was a masterclass.” HonoraryMancBlog


Question & Answer Session held after the performance of A Manchester Girlhood at the Manchester Jewish Museum on 23 April

some questions raised: 

  • How did the idea of the play come about?
  • For those of you that aren’t Jewish, did you do a lot of research into Jewish history to help prepare for the part?
  • I’ve seen a few plays here, and I have to say nothing’s impacted me as much as tonight has because it felt so real in the space. From the minute you started to sing it was just fantastic. What sorts of backgrounds have you come from..? 

read what was asked and our responses here:  

Jewish Telegraph: My Life in 20-ish Questions:  Julia Pascal
Webmail :: Jewish Telegraph Julia Pascal My Life in 20 Questions.pdf (uk2.net)


Julia met members of the Manchester Jewish Museum’s Textile Group to talk about stories embedded in A Manchester Girlhood and the important part textiles play in the characters’ lives.

The group shared memories of dolls and cuddly companions from their childhood inspired by the role of the doll in A Manchester Girlhood and created collages inspired by these recollections which they put on display to coincide with the showing of A Manchester Childhood at the Museum on 23 April, 2023.

Some recollections:

As a child, I was given a French ‘baby’ doll, life-sized and made of celluloid. It was perfect in every detail: I called her Naomi.  When my older sister had her first daughter, Naomi was ‘dressmaker’s dummy’ to ensure her matinee jackets fitted for a baby……   As her daughter grew up, I was persuaded to let it be sent to Canada for her to play with. Twenty years later, I learned it had arrived smashed – its head caved in!

I had a kangaroo – Wally Wallerby, given to me by my grandmother for my 6th birthday. I still have her today, although her baby from the pouch has long gone! She is also very bald, her nose has been patched by my late grandmother. She wears a 2- piece outfit also made by my grandmother …who also taught me to crochet at the age 6/7.

Wally was my favourite over toy, reminds me of my lovely grandmother who looked after my brothers and I when my mum was at work, and was a comfort to me as a child. Especially as I was a Singleton (with twin brothers) and sometimes felt left out.


A hare called Fritz – from Hamburg. Been with me since I was about 3/4 and I still have him. Now he is showing his age! I was only parted from him for a year when I was in a university hall of residence. He has had a major influence on me – I won’t eat rabbit! I also have a large collection of China and glass rabbits, very colourful and not always realistic…


I remember having a teddy every night, brown with big eyes. Just before I started high school, I came home one afternoon to find all my toys were gone, only books on the shelves. Mum said, “You’re a young woman now, no need for toys.”

I realised I chose the name Sarah for my bear because of its plain-ness and Englishness. I have always been aware I have an ‘unusual’ name. Growing up I (and my siblings) were the only Jewish people in our school and we didn’t know any other Jews other than family. ………………… I always liked my name but I think there is something significant in me choosing the name Sarah for my teddy and I’m really grateful to Julia for asking the question and making me think back to something I wouldn’t have given much thought to otherwise. Perhaps I yearned for something more ‘normal’ perhaps as a way to fit in. I never saw myself as a minority as such but I did always feel different in some way. I understand more about it now that I’m older but I find it interesting that such a young girl (think I would have been 6) that I was opting for ‘whiteness’ via my teddy.


I had a teddy who was called Teddy. He wore no clothes and was made of brown fur. He lived with my great aunt and uncle who I spent most of my early childhood with. I remember whenever I stayed with my aunt and uncle he went everywhere with me and slept in a shoe box next to my bed. Over the years he was scarred with cigarette burns where my aunt had stubbed cigarettes out in him when I had moved the ashtray and had eggs cracked on him when I had moved the bowl when she was baking. He also got dropped in puddles!

My uncle used to tease me that Teddy had climbed in the bin and taken away by the binmen. Teddy was given to me to take home when he was 18 with strict instructions not to let him be taken by my younger siblings or cousins. Unfortunately, I let two of my cousins take him for a weekend and he was never seen again.  Talking years later I asked about Teddy to find my cousins had no recollection, but they assumed their parents would probably have thrown him away if he was as tatty as I said he was.