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.”
Alan Rickman took the idea to the Royal Court after reading an email written by Corrie and posthumously published in the Guardian. With the permission of Corrie’s family, he and Guardian journalist Katharine Viner developed the play based on Corrie’s own writings. Megan Dodds starred as Corrie in the 80-minute monologue.
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 in March ahead of a planned international tour.
However, as reported this week in the Guardian, the New York run was cancelled. Workshop artistic director James Nicola told the newspaper that they had never formally announced the play’s run. "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," he said. "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: “This is censorship born out of fear, and the New York Theatre Workshop, the Royal Court, New York audiences - all of us are the losers." But New York’s loss is London’s gain as a much wider UK audience will now be able to see the show at the 800-seat Playhouse in the West End.
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.”
- by Terri Paddock