My Name is Rachel Corrie

Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, London

We need heroes and heroines. Was Rachel Corrie one or a hopelessly naïve innocent. Certainly it seems she came into this world already fully formed. At the end of this 90-minute solo `tribute’ to the peace activist killed in Gaza, a short video plays. It is Corrie, delivering a speech on children and World Hunger, potent in its eloquence, blazing in its idealism. She is aged 10. Between that moment and her death, at 24, before an Israeli bulldozer in March 2003, the trajectory of her life seems almost inevitable.

Culled and shaped by journalist Katherine Viner and director Alan Rickman from Corrie’s own writings, and given an electrifying purity of purpose by actress Megan Dodds, it is as if Corrie always somehow knew her time was going to be short.

`I knew’, she says, `what the unbearable lightness was before I read the book. The lightness  – between life and death…it’s just a shrug.’

Such acceptance seems to have given her an extraordinary freedom to live out her ideals in terms that ironically make her sound like an American version of Anne Frank.

Like Frank, Corrie’s fierce social conscience and empathy for the underpriviledged lives alongside a captivating hopeful ardour.

Dodd’s superb performance in Hildegard Bechtler and Rickman’s wonderfully paced, clever, traverse staged production, doesn’t hide her potential naivety.

What did this life-loving, articulate, intelligent young American from Olympia, Washington think she could achieve? Is her death another example of the futile gesture?

Corrie’s own words and the glow that comes from Dodds’s evocation of her stand as  stunning repudiation. Ultimately what she saw may have filled her with furious despair; her commitment to its erasure, however, will surely prove inspirational.

First published in The Herald, April 2005