|||Clive|||http://clivedavis.blogspot.com/2005/04/death-of-activist-heres-my-times.html|||4/18/2005 11:06:00 am|||||||||
THE inevitable problem with political theatre is how to avoid preaching to the converted. Being outraged about Guantanamo Bay is not enough in itself to make an interesting piece of drama, and I suspect that the acclaim lavished on David Hare’s sloganising Iraq play Stuff Happens had more to do with the audience’s visceral contempt for the Bushies and Blairites than the script’s intrinsic qualities.
My Name is Rachel Corrie is an unabashedly one-sided tribute — directed by the actor Alan Rickman — to the left-wing American activist who was killed in Gaza two years ago while trying to prevent an Israeli army bulldozer from demolishing a Palestinian house. (The exact details of her final moments were hotly disputed, a point not acknowledged in this production.)
A member of the controversial International Solidarity Movement, Corrie has since been turned into a martyr of the Palestinian cause. A website honours her memory, and on press night campaigners were handing out literature promoting the campaign launched against the American manufacturer of the bulldozer.
Rickman and the Guardian journalist Katharine Viner have skilfully woven together extracts from Corrie’s journals and e-mails. Megan Dodds delivers a compelling performance as a Washington State romantic who despises consumerism and keeps a copy of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl lying by her bed. The evening is suffused with a sense of a tragic waste of life. But does it convince us that we are in the company of an individual of exceptional gifts and perceptions? Not really. Rachel Corrie was 23 years old when she died, and — I feel heartless saying this — most of her writings are exactly what you would expect from a bright, young, progressive woman from a bright, young, progressive background.
As for the scenes set in Israel — brilliantly evoked by Hildegard Bechtler’s bullet-pocked concrete set — an element of unvarnished propaganda comes to the fore. With no attempt made to set the violence in context, we are left with the impression of unarmed civilians being crushed by faceless militarists. Early on, Corrie makes a point of informing us that more Israelis have been killed in road accidents than in all the country ’s wars put together. As she jots down thoughts in her notebook and fires off e-mails to her parents, she declares that “the vast majority of Palestinians right now, as far as I can tell, are engaging in Gandhian non-violent resistance”. Even the late Yassir Arafat might have blushed at that one.