The Royal Court Theatre presents
My Name Is Rachel Corrie ( Archived )
Created from the writings of Rachel Corrie. Edited by Alan Rickman and Katharine Viner
11 October - 29 October 2005
Jerwood Theatre Downstairs
*LATEST NEWS: My Name Is Rachel Corrie transfers to the Playhouse Theatre, London from March 2006 – call 0870 060 6631 to book now *
The sell-out run of My Name is Rachel Corrie transfers to the Royal Court’s Jerwood Theatre Downstairs.
*Why did a 23-year-old woman leave her comfortable American life to stand between a bulldozer and a Palestinian home? *
*The short life and sudden death of Rachel Corrie, and the words she left behind. *
Director: Alan Rickman
Design: Hildegard Bechtler
Lighting: Johanna Town
Sound and Video Design: Emma Laxton
Cast: Megan Dodds.
“My Name is Rachel Corrie is a powerful, thought-provoking and deeply moving piece of theatre…vividly brought to life by an astonishing solo performance by Megan Dodds” Daily Telegraph
“Theatre can’t change the world. But what it can do, when it’s as good as this, is to send us out enriched by other people’s passionate concern.” The Guardian
“Rickman’s direction of the piece hits the right note again and again.” The Independent5 stars Alan Rickman has worked extensively as an actor on stage and screen. He has most recently appeared in all four HARRY POTTER films, LOVE, ACTUALLY, DOGMA, MICHAEL COLLINS and SENSE AND SENSIBILITY. His stage work includes THE SEAGULL, THE GRASS WIDOW and THE LUCKY CHANCE at the Royal Court, PRIVATE LIVES (Albery),
ANTONIO (Nottingham Playhouse), UBU REX (Bristol Old Vic), MAN IS MAN (Bristol Old Vic) and THE CARNATION GAME (Sheffield Crucible).
Alan Rickman directed THE WINTER GUEST by Sharman Macdonald at West Yorkshire Playhouse and the Almeida Theatre.
Katharine Viner is an award-winning journalist and editor of The Guardian’s Weekend Magazine.
Megan Dodds has appeared on television in SPOOKS (BBC), MALICE AFORETHOUGHT, LOVE IN A COLD CLIMATE (BBC) and THE RAT PACK (HBO). Her work for theatre includes THIS IS HOW IT GOES (Donmar), UP FOR GRABS (Wyndhams), HAMLET (Young Vic) and POPCORN (West End).
MY NAME IS RACHEL CORRIE has been developed in collaboration with the Royal Court International Department with the kind permission of Rachel Corrie’s family.
Running time 1 hour 25 minutes (no interval)
Vigour and courage of youthful idealism
*Reviews from Jerwood Theatre Downstairs production * 4 stars MAIL ON SUNDAY
My Name is Rachel Corrie is a true and profoundly moving story. As a piece of theatre, it belongs to verbatim genre, pieced together by Alan Rickman and the journalist Katherine Viner from the diaries, e-mails and lists of extremely articulate, committed, courageous idealist Rachel Corrie.
She was raised in Olympia, in Washington State, by intelligent, liberal parents, and when she left college she joined The International Solidarity Movement, an organisation committed to non-violent resistant to the Israeli military occupation in Palestine.
At the age of 23, this slender blonde stood between a bulldozer and a Palestinian home. The bulldozer crushed her to death.
This drama is many things. It’s a piece about growing up in America today, it’s a piece about the nature of heroism; it’s a beautifully written and structured chronicle of a death of a foretold, which Rickman directs with great skill.
My one problem is that even though I know every single word is Rachel’s, she seems too good to be true. Her only flaw, for heaven’s sake, was an untidy bedroom. Even as a ten-year-old she spoke at her school Conference For World Hunger and was captured on video saying: I’m here for other children. I’m here because I care.
Strangely enough, had she been less astonishingly articulate, impressively informed, beautiful and utterly humane – in other words less perfect – she would have made an even more interesting protagonist.
As she is, powerfully played by Megan Dodds, she is truly incandescent, blazing presence, her skin and eyes shining with Rachel’s passionate intensity and goodness. Inspirational.
Georgina Brown, MAIL ON SUNDAY, 16 October 2005
*Reviews from Jerwood Theatre Upstairs production *
Vigour and courage of youthful idealism
I have said some harsh things about the Royal Court recently, so it’s good to report that My Name is Rachel Corrie is a powerful, thought-provoking and deeply moving piece of theatre.
The latest in the stream of verbatim drama that has so enriched our political theatre, it is based on the journals and e-mails home of Rachel Corrie, who grew up among a loving, liberal family in Olympia, capital of the Pacific state of Washington.
Even at the age of 10, Corrie was concerned with the state of the world, and her idealistic spirit took her to Gaza in 2003. She joined the International Solidarity movement of non-violent resistance to Israel military occupation and was killed by an Israeli bulldozer as she tried to defend a Palestinian home from demolition. She was 23, and had been in Gaza for less than two months.
Alan Rickman and Katharine Viner, who have edited Corrie’s writings, offer a fully rounded picture of this passionate, idealistic and at times infuriating young woman, vividly brought to life in an astonishing solo performance by Megan Dodds.
Corrie’s concern for suffering humanity is coupled with the self-obsession and exasperating certainty of youth, and she isn’t above giving her understandably anxious parents priggish and self-righteous lectures on politics and morality.
As she describes the suffering of the Palestinians, and their Ghandian resistance, she ducks the question of suicide bombers and the carnage they have wreaked on entirely innocent Israelis. At times in this performance, one longs for calmer and more informed viewpoints than can be provided by a 23-year-old who has only been in Gaza for a few weeks.
But quarrelling with Corrie’s occasionally glib convictions, even as you admire her courage, lends the show dramatic tension, and forces you to try to tidy up your own muddled thinking on this vexed subject. And there is no doubt that Corrie was a natural writer, who described life in Gaza with rare power and precision.
Her description of the doctor who spent 30 years raising the money for a house that Israeli bulldozers could destroy in three hours, of retrieving a dead body under gunfire or guarding a vitally needed well are blessed with remarkable vigour and freshness. She also displays a real empathy with those she is trying to help, amazed that they defend such a large degree of their humanity against the horror occurring in their lives.
Rickman directs a gripping production, on a fine design by Hildegard Bechtler, which moves from Corrie’s chaotic student bedsit to the devastation of Gaza. And Dodds is superb as Corrie, candid, passionate, self-mocking and original, her eyes brimming with tears as she describes the dreadful things she has witnessed and her fading belief in the goodness of human nature.
One leaves the theatre mourning not only Rachel Corrie’s death but also one’s own loss of the idealism and reckless courage of youth.
Charles Spencer, DAILY TELEGRAPH
As pioneered by the Tricycle Theatre, and now practised by David Hare, documentary theatre can simplify or sum up complex public issues. This new addition to the genre, however, is as troubling as it is moving.
Rachel Corrie was a 23-year-old American activist killed by the Israeli army in Gaza two years ago. While acting as a human shield for Arab homes, she was run down by an American-made military bulldozer, which then reversed over her. She left behind journals and emails brimming with wit, rage, despair and a writerly sensibility, but her greatest talent seems to have been for compassion, based on pure empathy.
Guardian journalist Katherine Viner and director Alan Rickman have carefully edited these writings into a 90-minute monologue, which is delivered with passion and delicacy by the superlative Megan Dodds. It makes clear that Corrie’s obscene death was part of the far greater obscenity of the Intifada. It does not idealise Corrie, although her shamingly unselfish goodness shines through.
The play unequivocally refuses to equate Israeli government policy with Judaism, or sympathy for Palestinians with anti-Semitism. It is done to the highest standards, from the best possible motives, and with the approval of Corrie’s family. But what, exactly, are we applauding at the end? A tragedy at several removes; the wastage of Gaza, filtered through the appalled eyes of a young, fresh American soul, then filtered again through the thoughtful, organising hands of Rickman and Viner and Dodds’ vibrant performance.
Corrie’s own artful way with words means that this show lacks the blunt power of most documentary theatre. Her personality dominates. If one audience member acts, or even thinks more deeply, about the Gaza situation, this show will be a fitting tribute to her memory. But for most of us, myself included, fear it will be a salve to lazy consciences. We would rather mourn the wasted promise of a pretty, lively, media-friendly martyr then address what she lived and died for.
Nick Curtis, EVENING STANDARD
Her passion brought back to life
Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old American who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer as she tried to prevent the demolition of Palestinian houses in Gaza was frank, witty and feverishly imaginative. And it’s this that makes Alan Rickman’s and Katherine Viner’s dramatisation of extracts from her e-mails and diaries which opened at the Royal Court last week by and large so compelling. My Name is Rachel Corrie which Rickman also directs, opens in Corrie’s messy, clothes-strewn bedroom in her hometown of Olympia, Washington. Megan Dodds captures Corrie’s daunting energy and the rapt attention of the audience from the outset. As she darts about her red-walled bedroom, animatedly opining on everything from errant boyfriends to a woman she knew who became part owl, we realise this is someone who will not be contained by her surroundings.
Corrie was murdered two years ago, only two months after joining a non-violent Palestinian resistance organisation in Gaza. Her powerful e-mails to her mother were serialised by a newspaper after her death. Rickman and Viner have also had access to the diaries she kept in the months before her departure.
Many of the entries, which provide the material for the first half, are very funny, among them an extended riff on a fantasy meeting with her ex and his new “hoochie-ass girlfriend”, or the occasion when Corrie swans around her room imagining “I live in a Mountain Dew commercial. I am always on the beach with a bevy of sinewed friends and we are always dancing.”
Such moments are, of course, in stark contrast to the second half, when Corrie decamps to the crumbling Palestinian city of Rafah. There are more gags,
“very little problem at the airport. My tight jeans and cropped sweater seem to have made all the difference” but Corrie’s e-mails home also reveal her rising fear.
Though they create a compelling picture of life in a war zone one can’t help feeling the play would have worked better had they been more condensed. Megan Dodds’ performance, however, is increasingly fraught and passionate. And when she disappears off stageand we hear the words of the friend who saw her gasping for breath as she suffocated under a pile of earth, the effect is shocking.
Emma Gosnell, SUNDAY TELEGRAPH
Without the Tricycle, another remarkable testimony might never have been staged. My Name is Rachel Corrie is also verbatim theatre, though obviously impassioned and partial. Alan Rickman and Katherine Viner have edited diaries and emails by the 23-year-old American woman crushed in Gaza by an Israeli bulldozer.
The result, incandescently performed by Megan Dodds, is a fiery witness to Palestinian suffering and a close-up chronicle of a girl changing from fizzing, self-transfixed teenager into a dedicated political activist and a gifted writer. Rickman, who directs, makes the point with a visual flourish: Corrie pushes aside her teenage bed, littered with trainers and sweaters and overhung by posters, to walk along a bare, concrete wall into the sounds of the Middle East. Ahead of her is a mound of rubble and a parched tree.
Susannah Clapp, OBSERVER
Rachel Corrie was an idealistic, well-educated, young American woman, bursting with indignity at the injustices in the world, who travelled to the Occupied Territories to be part of the International Solidarity Movement working in Gaza.
Her diaries and e-mails, from which this affecting monologue has been complied, show she was racked with guilt about the fact she could leave at any time, while the Palestinians she was trying to help were trapped in increasingly unbearable conditions.
But she never did leave Rachel was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in 2003, while trying to protect a Palestinian home. She was 23.
Megan Dodds has worked herself so far into her role that she seems to live it in front of you. Rachel, as refracted through her, is a bright-eyed, painfully optimistic girl who is overawed by the realities of the situation she enters and struggles to hold on to her belief in the goodness of human nature, finding solace in writing and feverish list-making.
Editors Alan Rickman and Katherine Viner have chosen judiciously from Rachel’s writings the changes she goes through are evident from the subtly managed shifts in tone and Rickman, as director, keeps the power of the piece focused with minimal distractions from Dodds’ exhausting performance. At times you feel angry at Rachel for being so naive; you also find yourself wishing there could be more people like her.
Siobhan Murphy, METRO4 stars Tribunal theatre cultivates a cool, careful style in which there is a large cast but no central part; Alan Rickman’s production of My Name is Rachel Corrie, based on the writings of Corrie, a 23-year-old American peace activist killed by an Israeli bulldozer in the Gaza Strip in 2003, is an achingly personal one-woman performance.
Corrie grew up in Olympia, Washington state, about as far as it is possible to get in the continental United States from the Middle East, but her diaries show she was both a typical American teenager and extraordinary at the same time, with a strong streak of inherited idealism. Rickman and his collaborator, Katherine Viner, extract much sparky humour from her descriptions of her studies, her voluntary work and her affectionate but sometimes puzzled relationship with her parents.
Megan Dodds, no stranger to playing English roses on television but in fact an American, superbly darkens the mood as Rachel finds a brutal test for her courage, among the Palestinians of Gaza. On stage the shift is efficiently conveyed by removing Rachel’s chaotic bedroom in Washington state to leave only the bare, battered concrete of Rafah, at the southern end of the Gaza Strip, where civilians are shot and houses demolished every day. The peace group to which she belonged sought to act as human shields for the Palestinians; she was killed when she sought to obstruct one of the Israeli armys bulldozers from carrying out yet another demolition.
In her journals and e-mails, Corrie’s self-deprecating humour gave way to anger and fear at what she was seeing. He last dispatch to her parents is an eloquent attempt to convince her parents that taking a balanced position between Israeli and Palestinian claims is simply to deny the Palestinians any rights: “Disbelief and horror is what I feel.”
The Royal Court performance concludes with a videotape of the real Rachel Corrie at the age of 10, speaking of her wish to end world hunger. Cerebral or emotional, however, you cannot come away from (the) evening without plenty to think about.
Raymond Whitaker, INDEPENDENT
JERWOOD THEATRE DOWNSTAIRS
MY NAME IS RACHEL CORRIE
11 – 29 October
Tickets MONDAYS ALL SEATS 7.50 supported by Bloomberg, FRIDAYS, MATINEES & PREVIEWS BEST SEATS 15, Other performances tickets 7.50-27.50
Monday – Saturday 7.30pm
11 – 13 October
14 October 7pm
11 – 13 October 7.30pm
Sign-Interpreted Performance(s) 25 October 7.30pm email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details
1 hour 20 minutes with no interval