Rickman stages show of anger at Israel's strong-arm tactics

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* ALAN RICKMAN is about to become the latest Hollywood star to light the blue touchpaper on the powderkeg that is Arab-Israeli politics.

* ALAN RICKMAN is about to become the latest Hollywood star to light the blue touchpaper on the powderkeg that is Arab-Israeli politics.

He is working on a play about Rachel Corrie, pictured right, the American "human shield" who was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer as she tried to prevent it destroying a Palestinian house in Rafah last March.

The play, My Name is Rachel Corrie, will open at the Royal Court next year, and is based on detailed diaries and letters written by Corrie before her death. It has been fully authorised by her family.

Rickman, above, is collaborating with the journalist Katherine Viner on the script, and has also agreed to direct the finished article. A former Labour Party donor, he is thought to be sympathetic towards the Palestinian cause.

"I haven't directed theatre since 1995, but I don't feel nervous; it's something I've wanted to do for a long time," Rickman told me at the recent Women in Film and Television Awards.

"We're working on the script at the moment. Craig and Cindy, Rachel's parents, have been very generous with her written material, handing over the journals that she has written since she was eight."

The theatre said yesterday that the show would open in April: "We're very proud that her family has allowed us to put this together. It's got their full support and they'll almost certainly be flying over to see it."

* RICKY GERVAIS has vowed never to make another series of The Office , but the BBC is still keen to tap into its enduring success.

It is funding two pilot episodes of Toyboyz , a comedy co-written by The Office stars Jamie Deeks and Ewen Macintosh. Stirling Gallache who played David Brent's boss, Jennifer, in the show is also lined up for a role.

"It's about a boyband from the 1980s, who've reformed because one of their tracks was in a mobile phone commercial," said Gallacher, at the launch of the edgy fashion label, Nooria.

Intriguingly, I gather that Gervais - a veteran of the 80's power pop combo Seona Dancing - is writing the soundtrack.

* PRESIDENT PERVEZ Musharraf of Pakistan didn't meet Michael Howard during his official visit to London yesterday. It's becoming a habit for the Tory leader, who also fell out with George Bush during the US presidential election campaign.

The Pakistani embassy wouldn't comment on the matter yesterday, but Mr Howard's spokesman said: "Both sides couldn't find the time, but they do both hope very much to meet in the future."

General Musharraf had breakfast with Boris Johnson that very morning. Surely Bozza's not considered more of a "player" than his own party leader?

* TIM HENMAN has upset the Lawn Tennis Writers' Association after deciding not to attend its awards dinner at the All England Club last night. Although he was due to receive the Player of the Year award, Henman pulled out at a few hours' notice, saying his wife is

about to have their second child.

"It's a feeble excuse," reckons an organiser. "Firstly, she's not due to give birth for at least a fortnight. Secondly, he only lives five minutes away, so could easily have shown his face for an hour."

Henman recently told a Swiss newspaper that Britain has "probably the worst media in the world", and tennis writers who "know nothing about the game". And so the charm offensive continues.