REVIEW: My Name is Rachel Corrie – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

MyNameIs

Photo Credit: Tim Morozzo

Writer: Rachel Corrie

Editors: Alan Rickman and Katharine Viner

Director: Ros Philips

Reviewer: Lauren Humphreys

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★½☆

On March 16th 2003, less than two months after her arrival in the Gaza Strip, 23 year old American peace activist and member of the International Solidarity Movement, Rachel Corrie, was killed by an Israeli Defense Force armoured bulldozer whilst trying to prevent the demolition of the home of a Palestinian family she had befriended.

This play, My Name is Rachel Corrie, has been created from the diaries, letters, emails and answer phone messages of Corrie and is intended by its creators, actor Alan Rickman and Guardian editor Katherine Viner, as a vehicle to continue Corrie’s work: raising awareness of the Palestinian experience in the western world.

The piece is presented here in two acts, the first opening on a bedroom strewn with the familiar paraphernalia of teenage life: the works of Camus and Maya Angelou, posters by Klimt and Dali, where we are given an insight into the mercurial mind and passionate personality of this extraordinary young woman. Corrie’s many causes, her search for a life-path to follow and her bravery at such a young age to stand apart from the crowd, clearly set her apart from your average American teen. Her eloquence and commitment to help others quite astonishing in one so young.

The second act transports us to the Gaza Strip where Corrie’s impassioned pleas to spread the word globally about the Palestinian situation manage to achieve greater weight thanks to her vivid eye-witness accounts of the daily brutalities and humiliations endured by the Palestinian people.

Corrie has a distinct voice, eloquent and self-aware well beyond her years.  But it is the skill of Mairi Phillips as Corrie who gives this piece life. It is hard not to marvel at the physical and verbal dexterity with which she delivers this dense, complex and emotionally draining performance.

However powerful the message and strong its central performance, the piece itself is not without fault: the decision to present it as a two act play where previously it has been run straight through, whilst providing a distinct contrast between the two stages of Corrie’s life, only serves to unnecessarily drag the piece out: in Phillips striking portrayal we quickly get the message about exactly what kind of person Corrie is without the constant repetition of ideas and themes. The density of the dialogue, whilst vividly reflecting Corrie’s gift as a writer and showing her insightful, deeply felt commentary on the situation, is at times lost because of its sheer volume and intensity: the relentless machine gun delivery almost feeling like a physical assault by the end.

Much about the situation is omitted here, it offers neither reason nor solution, instead it is an affecting snapshot of a brave, brutally honest, articulate and vibrant young woman’s reaction to a seemingly insurmountable problem she cared deeply about.