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Last Updated: Monday, 18 April, 2005, 09:54 GMT 10:54 UK
Gaza activist's life becomes play
By Kate McGeown
BBC News

Megan Dodds as Rachel Corrie (image courtesy of the Royal Court theatre)
Megan Dodds conveys Corrie's passion for justice
What would induce a young woman to leave her small American town to fight for the rights of a group of people she hardly knew?

In My Name is Rachel Corrie - the story of the life, and death, of a 23-year-old peace activist in Gaza - we find out.

On 16 March 2003, Corrie's life came to an abrupt end when she was crushed by an Israeli Army bulldozer while trying to stop the demolition of a Palestinian building in the Rafah refugee camp.

She left behind a series of diaries, written from when she was 12, as well as emails from her time in Gaza.

It is these that form the basis of the play, which is directed by Alan Rickman and currently being staged at London's Royal Court theatre.

From the opening of the play - with Corrie lying on her bed, looking back at the roots of her desire to help the world's less fortunate - to her experiences of conflict-ridden Gaza, we see the real person behind the activist.

We hear of her attempts to win back an old boyfriend, her contrasting feelings of love and frustration towards her parents, her messiness and incessant list-making and even the irony of watching the film Pet Sematary in a house which had bullet holes in the walls.

Rachel Corrie

She also gives an insight into the ordinary lives of Palestinians who are constantly fearful that their homes will be destroyed by Israeli tanks.

Her diary records the endless wait at Israeli checkpoints and the bravery of those who insisted on improving their bullet-ridden surroundings, as well as the little things - a local woman's concern when she became ill with flu and the glow-in-the-dark stickers in a teenager's bedroom.

The play revolves around one person and therefore only needs one voice, that of Corrie herself, played magnificently by Megan Dodds.

She manages to convey both the youthful exuberance and the outrage at the world's injustices that characterised Corrie's life.

The set, designed by Hildegard Bechtler, seamlessly switches from a bedroom in Olympia, Washington, to a bullet-ridden Palestinian home, via an internet café.

But what stands out above everything is Corrie's character - her hopes and fears, her insecurities at being in such a dangerous place and her unquenchable conviction that there was something she could do to help.

'Exceptionally brave'

This play does not attempt to turn Corrie into a saint. Indeed in her early years, she sometimes comes across as being quite big-headed - even downright arrogant at times - a fact she freely admitted in later life.

But it does leave you feeling that this was an exceptionally brave young woman. Many people want to make the world a better place, but few struggle so single-mindedly to achieve it.

My Name is Rachel Corrie is undoubtedly controversial, as is almost any form of art based on the politics of the Middle East.

Don't expect an unbiased view of the conflict - this is one young woman's view of the situation, and what she saw was intense suffering and tragedy among the Palestinian community in southern Gaza.

But what the play does give is a uniquely personal account of the short life of someone who felt driven to help the oppressed - a quest that took her to a land far from home, into a dispute she knew little about.

Rachel Corrie may have died more that two years ago, but this play looks set to keep her legacy alive for many years to come.

My Name is Rachel Corrie is at London's Royal Court theatre until 30 April.

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17 Mar 05 |  Middle East
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17 Mar 03 |  Middle East


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