Theatre review: My Name is Rachel Corrie

The controversial Gaza play lacks the complexity to portray the Israel-Palestinian conflict fairly


Anyone who calls for a play to be banned or attempts to stop it being shown immediately puts themselves on the wrong side of freedom of expression.

But for those who worry that a bigoted anti-Israelism lies behind the writings of Rachel Corrie, or even those who stage the play, here is some context which may be reassuring.

There are two plays currently on in London that address the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. One is J T Rogers’s multi award-winning account of how the Oslo peace accords came about, which is currently enjoying a sold out run at the National Theatre before transferring to the West End.

The other is a revival of this moving monologue first seen in 2005 and adapted by the late Alan Rickman and Katharine Viner (now editor of the Guardian).

It was chosen by this year’s winner of the JMK Trust Young Director Award Josh Roche. On the whole, the play that reflects the complexity of the conflict, rather than one particular, and possibly anti-Israel, point of view, is winning.

It might be worth mentioning here that although the Young Vic has not unreasonably defended the decision to stage the play, it wasn’t chosen by them. So what would those opposing the play have the theatre’s outgoing (and, by the way, Jewish) artistic director David Lan do? Say “no" to the young director’s choice?

None of the controversy surrounding the play - the Zionist Federation’s leafleting campaign outside the Young Vic which attempts to redress what it sees as factual inaccuracies, nor those who doubtless use the play to attack Israel – changes the fact that Corrie’s articulate and lyrical voice is undoubtedly worth preserving.

And over the play’s uninterrupted 90 minutes the young actor Erin Doherty displays a full command of her subject, transmitting the uncertainty and passion of a figure driven less by facts than by the impulse to act caringly.

This is a play about the depth of feeling that dries people to activism. It’s a cry against apathy

But as a political work its limits are plain. Those for and against the play talk a lot about the truths that are included in it and that have been left out of it.

But when it comes to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, only complexity can get close to a truth. And for that you're far better of going to Oslo.

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