The Theatreguide.London Review
My Name is Rachel Corrie
Playhouse Theatre Spring 2006
Rachel Corrie was an American university student who went to Gaza in 1993 with an international group who hoped their presence would deter Israeli attacks on Palestinian villages. They were not successful, and Corrie was killed while trying to block a bulldozer.
She had kept journals and written extensive e-mails home, and Alan Rickman and Katharine Viner have edited this solo performance piece from them, with Rickman directing Megan Dodds as Corrie.
We are introduced to Corrie as an attractively kookie-artsy student who makes a seemingly abrupt leap to political involvement. (This is probably a flaw in the editing, since we later learn that her family and she herself had a history of political activism.)
In Gaza, her sensitive insights are at first coloured by a believable naivete and romanticising of her Palestinian neighbours. But her political awareness and her commitment grow together, culminating in what may have been her last e-mail home, an eloquent and powerful expression of moral outrage.
I'm not going to get into the politics of the piece except to note that they will undoubtedly affect your response to it. It is unapologetically pro-Palestinian, building to an eloquent rage against the Israeli government and against the world that permits their actions.
There are two perhaps-slightly-irrelevant criticisms to make here. One is that, since part of the play's premise is that Corrie was a typical American girl who gradually became politicised, through much of the evening she has to be presented as not particularly special.
But then why should we be paying attention to her? The answer is that we know she's going to die at the end, and a lot of her onstage legitimacy is borrowed from that fact.
The other is a kind of Catch-22 for the creators of this play. In order to bring the plight of the Palestinians to our attention, they must tell us about one American woman's death.
But that implicitly makes her more important than those she went to serve - while she weeps for them, we're invited to weep for her.
It's a bit like the newspaper headlines that read MASSIVE FLOODS IN INDIA - ONE AMERICAN KILLED.
Along with the purely technical accomplishment of holding the stage alone and speaking almost uninterruptedly for 90 minutes, Megan Dodds realistically and convincingly captures Corrie's emotional and intellectual journey from carefree to idealistic to sentimental to enraged.
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