My Name is Rachel Corrie
November 4 – 14, 2010
For those who have followed the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict the name Rachel Corrie may well ring a bell, for others the name will be as meaningless as Joe Bloggs and Paula Brown. However, this one-woman production compiled by Alan Rickman (of Harry Potter fame) and Katharine Viner (deputy editor of The Guardian) is ensuring that Corrie’s legacy is not forgotten. On January 22nd 2003, the 23 year old American student flew to Israel to work as a volunteer for International Solidarity Movement, the pacifist Palestinian protest organisation. Less than two months later, Corrie was killed in the name of her cause when an Israeli bulldozer crushed her to death as she defended a Palestinian home.
My Name Is Rachel Corrie is a neat adaptation of Corrie’s diary entries and emails, creating a complete picture of her slightly chaotic yet clearly unfulfilled life before her trip, before focusing closely on the tumultuous emotional two months she spent on the front line. Having debuted in 2005 at London’s Royal Court Theatre, the piece has courted the expected controversy, with an initial run banned in New York due to complaints of racist content. Yet those complaints were clearly misguided. My Name Is Rachel Corrie is not racially driven, nor is it staunchly political. Rachel Corrie in her lifetime had fought for the rights of the individual and the piece mirrors her own drive. While My Name Is Rachel Corrie focuses on the plight of the Palestinians, as Corrie did in her short life, it makes clear that the perpetrators are not everyday individuals but rather their leaders. Its concise composition never falters and creates a moving connection with a ditzy girl who just wanted to do something with her life.
While Cassandra Backler’s cardboard box constructed set looked effective and accurately mirrored the compartmentalized existence Corrie fought so hard againt, it appeared to cause no end of problems for actress Hannah Norris. Under the direction of Daniel Clarke, Norris had the unenviable challenge of portraying Corrie without anything but the set as a distraction. Yet for the first two thirds of the 90 minute piece, Norris seemed to be struggling to connect to the ups and downs of pre-Palestine/Israel Corrie. Whilst Backler’s cardboard boxes should have been mere symbolic aids, they came to signify equally Norris’ struggle to connect with Corrie’s flitty disposition. Each move and line seemed pre-meditated, with Norris struggling to capture her fidgeting audience’s attention.
Clearly Clarke had focused more energy on ensuring the crucial closing third’s emotional drive, as Norris more than came into her own as Corrie’s emotional journey deepened. As Corrie’s connection to the Palestinian plight strengthened, Norris captured her audience and held them in her grasp to the last moment.
If only the whole production were as powerful as those last scenes.