JOYCE MCMILLAN on MY NAME IS RACHEL CORRIE at the Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow, for The Scotsman, 6.3.10
4 stars ****
THE STORY OF RACHEL CORRIE IS SO personally heartbreaking that even without its wider political resonances, it exerts a huge narrative power. On 16 March 2003, this beautiful young American from Seattle – 23 years old, writer, poet, idealist and peace campaigner – was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Rafa City, Gaza, during a demonstration by international peace activists against the destruction of houses and plantations. During the months she spent in Gaza before her death, though, Rachel Corrie had been writing constantly about the brutality and injustice she witnessed there, and how it had begun to shake her faith in non-violent action; and these emails and diary entries form the text of Alan Rickman and Kate Viner’s 2005 monologue, which became part of a great mid-decade wave of political verbatim theatre.
The strength of Ros Philips’s memorable new production at the Citizens – illuminated by a blazingly strong and subtle performance from Mari Phillips, full of a fierce and radical performance-poet energy – is that it sees precisely how the play’s personal and political tragedies complement one another; and so in the tiny Stalls Studio, turned blood-red by Neil Haynes’s fine design, it plunges us straight into the creative chaos of Rachel’s bedroom in Seattle, as she roars out her favourite music and thoughts with a huge whirlwind energy. The up-close exuberance of these early scenes makes it all the more difficult to watch the disappointment and despair which begin to overtake Rachel in Gaza; and in the end, tears are hard to avoid. But so too are the fierce questions Rachel was asking in her last days: about why we tolerate such terrible and unnecessary suffering in our world, every day; and what we are prepared to do about it.