Saturday, April 09, 2005

"My Name is Rachel Corrie"

"My Name is Rachel Corrie" is the title of a new play that has just opened at the Royal Court theatre in Sloane Square.

A group of us including one or two people who knew Rachel were invited to see a preview on Wednesday night.

The script is by Katherine Viner, but really it is written by Rachel Corrie herself - a thoughtful and articulate young lady with plenty to say. None the less Ms Viner did an excellent job compiling and editing the many e-mails, letters and diary entries that Rachel left behind, not forgetting her lists - Rachel was a compulsive list maker, although well aware of this sometimes absurd trait. I particularly enjoyed the wit and humour in the description of Rachel's trip to an ice-cream parlour supervising a group of mental patients. As a psychology student in the 1980s I had some similar experiences myself, and know only too well the mixture of humour, sadness, and sheer... well, insanity that such trips involve.

Later of course the mood became darker, as Rachel describes the incredible conditions she finds as an ISM volunteer in the Palestinian city of Rafah in 2003 - called with some justification, the world's largest prison. The last twenty minutes of the play were unforgettable and full credit to actress Megan Dodds who managed to narrate Rachel's last long e-mails from Rafah with such realism. At this point I forgot I was watching a play and just listened to the horror and anger and shock in the words. It made no difference I'd read them before, but I can confirm the script is 100% accurate, nothing has been added for rhetorical effect.

The play ended, like Rachel's life, unexpectedly and was harrowing for all of us. A young man sat next to me who'd been with Rachel when she died was in tears, and nobody was left unaffected. Wisely there was no attempt to portray the death itself, instead we had a calm desciption by one of the eye witnesses.

It's a powerful play and a fitting tribute to a short but full life. The set was vivid without being overwhelming and Alan Rickman's direction was naturalistic and unobtrusive. The star is Megan Dodds - it must have been a nightmare to learn the entire script, and a lonely and nervous experience to go on stage and perform it entirely alone. Not that you'd have noticed - Megan put on an amazing natural performance that made you forget you watching acting and brought Rachel to life. I never knew Rachel Corrie, but I feel I've come very close to knowing her now. It makes her death even more upsetting.

MY NAME IS RACHEL CORRIE

Directed by Alan Rickman
Cast: Megan Dodds
07 April 2005 - 30 April 2005
Evening Performances - Monday – Saturday 7.45pm
Saturday Matinees - 16, 23, 30 April 4pm
£7.50 – £15

2 Comments:

Blogger roGER said...

You can read a review of the play here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/reviews/story/0,,1459252,00.html#article_continue

11:48 AM  
Blogger roGER said...

Here's another review from The Times:

My Name is Rachel Corrie
Clive Davis at Royal Court, SW1

THE inevitable problem with political theatre is how to avoid preaching to the converted. Being outraged about Guantanamo Bay is not enough in itself to make an interesting piece of drama, and I suspect that the acclaim lavished on David Hare’s sloganising Iraq play Stuff Happens had more to do with the audience’s visceral contempt for the Bushies and Blairites than the script’s intrinsic qualities.

My Name is Rachel Corrie is an unabashedly one-sided tribute — directed by the actor Alan Rickman — to the left-wing American activist who was killed in Gaza two years ago while trying to prevent an Israeli army bulldozer from demolishing a Palestinian house. (The exact details of her final moments were hotly disputed, a point not acknowledged in this production.)

A member of the controversial International Solidarity Movement, Corrie has since been turned into a martyr of the Palestinian cause. A website honours her memory, and on press night campaigners were handing out literature promoting the campaign launched against the American manufacturer of the bulldozer.

Rickman and the Guardian journalist Katharine Viner have skilfully woven together extracts from Corrie’s journals and e-mails. Megan Dodds delivers a compelling performance as a Washington State romantic who despises consumerism and keeps a copy of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl lying by her bed. The evening is suffused with a sense of a tragic waste of life. But does it convince us that we are in the company of an individual of exceptional gifts and perceptions? Not really. Rachel Corrie was 23 years old when she died, and — I feel heartless saying this — most of her writings are exactly what you would expect from a bright, young, progressive woman from a bright, young, progressive background.

As for the scenes set in Israel — brilliantly evoked by Hildegard Bechtler’s bullet-pocked concrete set — an element of unvarnished propaganda comes to the fore. With no attempt made to set the violence in context, we are left with the impression of unarmed civilians being crushed by faceless militarists. Early on, Corrie makes a point of informing us that more Israelis have been killed in road accidents than in all the country ’s wars put together. As she jots down thoughts in her notebook and fires off e-mails to her parents, she declares that “the vast majority of Palestinians right now, as far as I can tell, are engaging in Gandhian non-violent resistance”. Even the late Yassir Arafat might have blushed at that one.

1:02 AM  

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