My Name Is Rachel Corrie, as collated and edited by journalist Katherine Viner and the late Alan Rickman, is a powerful and touching story. The play provides an insight to the life of the titular activist through her diaries, as she travels from suburban America to the Gaza strip, protesting the demolishment of civilian homes in Rafah.
From the show’s opening I was captivated by the four Rachel’s played by Sally MacAlister, Hannah Churchill, Meredith Mack and Zelda Solomon, who performed throughout the play in perfect harmony. Their dancing and fluid movements emphasized the continuity of the character throughout the stages of her infancy, adolescence and adulthood. The four girls seamlessly interacted to create scenes from Rachel Corrie’s diary, taking the stream of consciousness to her home in Washington, a garden in Rafah, and – comically – a day trip to Dairy Queen that winds into an imaginary road trip to Mexico.
The set design was sparce, with simple flats decorated in two extremes; homey photographs on one side, and war-torn, graffiti splattered Gaza on the other. The simplicity of the dressing provided the perfect groundwork to build up the imagery of the narrative. As expected of an aspiring poet, there was the sense that Rachel Corrie was trying to be profound, to say something significant in her youthful idealistic writing whilst at university. The results of which could be somewhat grating to an audience, yet the actors handled this well – producing a natural, naive but good-natured persona to what could be interpreted as a ‘superior’ and privileged voice.
The cast’s costumes continued to impress the representation of facets of Rachel by wearing variations on the same theme, and showcased the same personality in harsher conditions in Rafah by adding a khaki shirt onto the same clothes used to portray a childlike Corrie. Creating the scenes symbolically, with little in terms of props and setting, creates an ethereal and almost improvised air to the show, which worked effectively when paired with the detailed synchronised choreography, it impressed upon the audience that this is a reconstruction of events that once took place in reality.
The speech on its own was powerful, at times even poetic, however it was the addition of the live musicians underscoring the actors through the more poignant passages, that really emphasised the power of Rachel Corrie’s diary. The addition of the keyboard and cello melodies were subtle yet incredibly effective. The music created the perfect undercurrent for such emotional words. The combination of accompaniment from the cellist, and body percussion from the actors helped to develop a haunting tension for Rachel’s world in Gaza. Music was also used as a structural interlude to transition between episodes in the narrative.
I reiterate that it was the magnetism of the acting and the synchronicity of the four Rachel’s that made the show for me. It is a testament to the directing talent of Jo Hill and Aisha Kerallah, to have produced such an impactful and highly moving performance showcasing a stream-of-conscious narrative, but also to choreograph such beautiful and entrancing dance sequences. They highlighted how in-tune the actors had become throughout the rehearsal process to be so harmonised.There were occasional line slippages, and movement discrepancies, however these details were minor and did not detract from how endearing the actors made a character who otherwise could have remained somewhat precocious and unappealing on occasion.
Rachel Corrie was, at the end of the day, a white, middle-class, American woman who ventures to one of the most war-torn places in the world in order to help amongst a conflict that she herself admits she does not fully understand. Despite this, her empathy and innate wish to aid those in need, lead her to stay because of, not despite the atrocities she witnesses. An excellently portrayed and thought-provoking tribute, with a graceful and haunting narrative.
My Name is Rachel Corrie
Image: Louis Caro