Following the last-minute cancellation of its New York premiere (See News, 1 Mar 2006), Alan Rickman and Katharine Viner’s triple Whatsonstage.com Award-winning My Name Is Rachel Corrie - the one-woman play based on the writings of the late Rachel Corrie, played by Megan Dodds - received its West End premiere at the Playhouse Theatre last night (30 March 2006, previews from 28 March).

Why did a 23-year-old woman leave her comfortable American life to stand between a bulldozer and a Palestinian home? My Name Is Rachel Corrie recounts the real story of “the short life and sudden death of Rachel Corrie, and the words she left behind.”

Rickman took the idea to the Royal Court after reading emails written by Corrie and posthumously published in the Guardian. With the permission of Corrie’s family, he and Guardian journalist Katharine Viner developed the 80-minute monologue based on Corrie’s emails and extensive journal entries.

Following its sell-out premiere season in the 80-seat Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, My Name Is Rachel Corrie returned to the Royal Court’s 395-seat Jerwood Theatre Downstairs for a second limited season last October (See News, 3 May 2005). It was due to receive its US premiere at the New York Theatre Workshop this month ahead of a planned international tour.

However, when the New York run was called off four weeks ago, Workshop artistic director James Nicola said: "In our pre-production planning and our talking around and listening in our communities in New York, what we heard was that, after Ariel Sharon's illness and the election of Hamas, we had a very edgy situation. We found that our plan to present a work of art would be seen as us taking a stand in a political conflict, that we didn't want to take." In response, Rickman issued a statement, saying that the theatre’s decision was " censorship born out of fear".

My Name Is Rachel Corrie was the biggest straight play winner in this year’s Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards, triumphing in three categories: Best New Play, Best Solo Performance for Dodds and Best Director for Rickman (See News, 31 Jan 2006) and was also nominated for an Olivier for Outstanding Achievement at an Affiliate Theatre (See News, 18 Jan 2006).

At the time of collecting the production’s Theatregoers’ Choice Awards, Rickman (pictured with Viner and Dodds) told Whatsonstage.com: “The way I feel about My Name Is Rachel Corrie winning these awards is, I think, what I felt every night in the theatre – that the audience somehow owned the play. With the best kind of work, you always feel like you give it away to the audience. As an actor or a director, I’m just there to facilitate that.” He added, with regards to his own personal Best Director win for the play: “Thank you very much indeed. It’s really not about me, it’s about Rachel. You have honoured her and her memory with these awards and now her story goes on.”

For our 1st Night Photos, Whatsonstage.com’s photographer was on hand at last night’s opening night party aboard the RS Hispaniola on the River Thames, a relaxed affair which was attended by the team behind My Name Is Rachel Corrie as well as guests including Lindsay Duncan, Miranda Richardson, Miriam Margolyes, Ben Chaplin, David Calder, Tim Fountain, Oliver Dimsdale, Charlotte Emmerson, Sunday in the Park with George director Sam Buntrock and Royal Ballet prima ballerina Tamara Rojo.

- by Terri Paddock

** Join Whatsonstage.com for My Name Is Rachel Corrie with an EXCLUSIVE Q&A with Alan Rickman, Katharine Viner & Megan Dodds on Friday 28 April 2006 - click here for more details! **


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