Rachel Corrie was a young American woman who went a long way in her 23 years. From origins that weren't especially propitious for political activism (she came from a comfortable background), she journeyed into a conscience-stricken awareness of the world's injustices, and especially that people on the receiving end of activities funded by the US military budget were sometimes victims rather than beneficiaries.
It was this that prompted her, in January 2003, to travel to Palestine and to join other foreign nationals working for the International Solidarity Movement in Gaza. On 16 March of that year, while trying to protect Palestinian homes from demolition by forming a human shield, she was killed by an Israeli bulldozer.
Just opened at the Royal Court's Theatre Upstairs, My Name is Rachel Corrie is a solo theatre piece directed by Alan Rickman, who collaborated with Katharine Viner on editing a script derived from the writings that Rachel left behind. They are, this production makes piercingly clear, an enduring legacy to the world. The event is deeply moving - to which you may say: "well, it would be, wouldn't it with material like that?" So is a critic in danger of simply reviewing the life of Rachel Corrie and giving her, in questionable taste, a posthumous five-star rating?
That, though, would be to discount the many ways in which a show like this could have gone wrong - by applying, say, insufficient tact or tact of the wrong kind, or by ever-so-slightly milking the sentiment that is bound to be in a story with a foreknown tragic ending. But Rickman's direction of the piece hits the right note again and again. A tribute to Rachel Corrie and to the spirit that remains alive in her writing, the production leaps into being thanks also to the acting of Megan Dodds. The directness, the humour, the poetry, the capacious-yet-never-morbid conscience: all of these are beautifully captured.
In contemplating the suffering of the world, we all, when young, have conflicting impulses. On the one hand, we want to show solidarity by sharing in that suffering. On the other, we want to be as politically effective as we can, which may involve operating far from the scene of the crime.
What is distressing about this piece is that Rachel Corrie was not allowed to get to that second stage. But she acted out the first with a courage and self-awareness at which the majority of us can only marvel.
To 30 April (020-7565 5000)Reuse content