My Name is Rachel Corrie

s_rachelMy Name is Rachel Corrie is a play about the life of the young American who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza in 2003.  The performance I saw was by Mull Theatre who are on tour around Scotland.  They were at the Dundee Rep last night and the tour unfortunately finishes this Saturday in Dunfermline.  I knew nothing about the play, though like just about everyone else I knew who Rachel Corrie was.  Or, at least I knew that she was the young woman killed by the Israelis.  Like most people though, I knew absolutely nothing about Rachel Corrie the person.  And this is what makes this play such a revelation.  For it does not focus on her death.  We only hear about her death and how she died at the very end, almost as a postscript to the performance, through a TV report on her death.  The play instead is primarily a celebration of her life.  It has been put together by Alan Rickman and Katharine Vicker from Rachel’s own journals, letters and emails.  So this is a pretty authentic portrait of Rachel in her own words.

The title for the play is well chosen, for this is a very intimate production.  The stage is reduced by half and temporary setting has been installed on the other half of the stage.  So the whole performance takes place in a very much reduced space.  This is most appropriate as most of the action takes place in restricted spaces.  For example we begin in her bedroom, while at other times we in are the confined home of a Palestinian family.  As you enter the auditorium, Rachel is already there in her bedroom, doing the sort of things a teenage girl might do – lounging about, sketching, listening to music, dancing.  You almost feel you are intruding into her life. When the play does start for real, she turns to the audience and speaks to us.  You half expect her to say, Hi, my name is Rachel Corrie, welcome to my world.

This was a very moving and vibrant one woman performance by Mairi Phillips in the title role.  Rachel Corrie comes across as a lively, funny, engaging and committed person, who from a very early age wants to help make the world a better place.  We see her grow from a young girl to a thoughtful and by the end rather frightened young adult.  We learn about her family and friends and her determination to do something useful with her life, because she cares.  This takes her to Gaza, as a member of the International Solidarity Movement.  To support Palestinians in their unequal struggle against Israel and most of all to be a witness to the acts of aggression by the Israelis.  The set is a minimalist, semi-abstract one and we do not at any time see any of the violence that is going on.  We do though hear a lot of the rather frightening sounds that accompany the Israeli raids.  This if anything makes the attacks even more frightening as, like Rachel, we can only hope that a rocket, a bomb, or whatever does not hit our home.  For what the Israelis were doing was destroying the homes of Palestinians.  And Rachel wanted to try and stop them.  The fact that we do not see this violence, but instead Rachel the person, makes her killing even more despicable.  How could any army kill such a lovely, lively and caring person?

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