My Name Is Rachel Corrie

BATS Theatre, Wellington

08/04/2010 - 24/04/2010

The Forge at The Court Theatre, Christchurch

29/05/2009 - 27/06/2009

The Basement, Auckland

17/09/2010 - 25/09/2010

Production Details



MY NAME IS RACHEL CORRIE – An invigorating portrait of a passionate idealist

On May 29 2009, The Forge at The Court Theatre presents the powerful and provocative story of a peace activist killed in the Gaza Strip in the New Zealand première of My Name Is Rachel Corrie.

Rachel Corrie was born on April 10th 1979 in Olympia, Washington and joined the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) in early 2003, travelling to the heart of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Less than three months later she was killed by an Israeli military bulldozer while protecting a Palestinian family’s home from demolition. Her death drew world-wide media attention and caused international controversy. 

British actor Alan Rickman and Guardian journalist Katharine Viner edited the diaries and e-mails of the young American activist to create the production, which premiered at the Royal Court in London, 2005, to sell-out houses. The production was set to transfer to New York in March 2006, when producers in America indefinitely postponed the U.S debut. Outraged political groups made allegations of censorship, drawing pro-Israeli accusations of bias. The Royal Court withdrew the rights. Eventually the production made its Off-Broadway debut at the Minetta Lane Theatre in October 2006.

Director Lara Macgregor feels "honoured to be a part of such a socially and politically relevant play" and bringing the piece to Christchurch audiences. Macgregor states that "politics aside, this is a play about Rachel – writer, artist, poet. Rachel – the daughter, girlfriend, student, co-worker and friend," adds Macgregor. "My Name Is Rachel Corrie is Rachel’s story, told in her own words. Regardless of whether audiences agree or disagree with her views, her life and commitment to her ideals is inspirational."

Actress Kate Prior embraces the challenge of playing Rachel Corrie: "This is a thrilling and terrifying experience all rolled into one. When push comes to shove it’s just me up there trying to do justice to the memory of this vibrant young woman. Whenever the task at hand becomes overwhelming Rachel’s words are right there to remind, inspire and encourage me."

In addition to its four-week season in The Forge, My Name Is Rachel Corrie will tour local high schools where the performance will be followed by discussions with students about the political aspects of the play. Macgregor believes that Rachel’s passionate idealism is particularly relevant to young people and that "her story should spark debate, challenge opinions and encourage people to learn more about global issues."  

Australian designer Rita Carmody makes her Christchurch debut with My Name is Rachel Corrie, where the audience are taken from the domestic safety of Olympia, Washington into the war-torn desolation of the Gaza Strip. Her stunning set is supported by another innovative soundtrack by Geoff Nunn, lighting by Josh Major and video elements by Andrew Todd.

Additional information:
My Name Is Rachel Corrie opened at the Royal Court Theatre in London and became the fastest-selling play in the theatre’s history.
It transferred to the West End in 2006 and won the Theatregoer’s Choice Awards for Best Director, Best New Play and Best Solo Performance.
Lara Macgregor directed the sell-out season of The Tutor and is Associate Artistic Director of The Court Theatre.
More information about Rachel Corrie can be found at www.rachelcorriefoundation.org   

Reviews of previous productions:
"Funny, passionate, bristling with idealism and luminously intelligent" – TIME OUT 
"Theatre can’t change the world. But what it can do, when it’s as good as this, is to send us out enriched by other people’s passionate concern"  – THE GUARDIAN 
"Heartbreaking urgency" – THE NEW YORK TIMES 

"Deeply authentically human" – USA TODAY 

2009
The Forge, The Court Theatre, Christchurch

29 May – 27 June 2009 

Performance times:
6:30pm Monday / Thursday; 8pm Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday (no show Sundays).
Tickets: 
Adults $30, Senior Citizens $25, Tertiary Students $20, Group discount (10+) $20, 30U Club $12
Bookings: 
The Court Theatre, 20 Worcester Boulevard; 963 0870 or www.courttheatre.org.nz 

2010

Wellingtonians now have the opportunity to see The Forge at the Court Theatre production of My Name is Rachel Corrie, first performed in Christchurch in June 2009. After a successful season, Nocturne Theatre in association with The Court Theatre brings the play to Wellington in April 2010. 

In addition to the season at BATS, My Name Is Rachel Corrie will tour Wellington secondary schools where the performance will be followed by a student forum. Kate Prior was overwhelmed by the response from Christchurch students to the play, and is keen to bring the show to young people in Wellington. “Rachel was not much older than these 16 and 17 year-olds when she travelled to Palestine-Israel,” she says, “and I found the play really struck a chord with many young people. I’m looking forward to some good discussion with Wellington students.”

BATS Theatre 8 – 24 April
7pm
book@bats.co.nz  / 802 4175

Director Lara MacGregor

Performer Kate Prior

Original Set and Costume Design Rita Carmody

Original Lighting Design Josh Major

Soundtrack Geoff Nunn

Video Andrew Todd


Rachel Corrie:  Kate Prior 

 



Dispelling the masticated myth that is dropped into our little tweeting bird mouths by the mainstream media

Review by Sian Robertson 18th Sep 2010

First produced in London’s Royal Court Theatre by Alan Rickman in 2005, initially cancelled in New York (no surprises there), My Name is Rachel Corrie has returned to the New Zealand stage after its first season in early 2009. It is a one-woman show based on the diaries and correspondence of Rachel Corrie, an young American activist killed by an Israeli bulldozer while peacefully defending a Palestinian home from destruction in 2003.

Teamed up with director Lara Macgregor, Kate Prior gives a no-holds-barred performance as the exuberant, fiercely compassionate, eloquent Corrie. Prior secures us a direct line into the intimate interior life of a young woman who was on one hand a girlish, awkward, bubbly college student investigating the world in her own lyrical outpourings, and a clear-sighted, intelligent observer mature beyond her years, with an ability to describe what she saw of the realities of life and death in occupied Palestine in unequivocal terms.  

Her emails to her mother and father are wryly honest and particularly moving as she expresses to her loving family – who are at once proud of her and afraid for her (“I’d rather be proud of someone else’s daughter!”) – why she is determined to do what she is doing, and tries to reconcile her life back home with that of the cornered, impoverished Palestinian people with whom she lived during the Second Intifada, and whose quiet dignity and stoicism have humbled her.  

Instead of remaining an observer from the safety of her middle-class America, she refused to pass the buck, planting herself in the midst of a tense conflict on the other side of the world, as a member of the International Solidarity Movement, protecting Palestinian homes from destruction.

Honest, thoughtful, self-deprecating and courageous, Corrie’s outlook is a breath of fresh air in a world of mass-produced confusion and cynicism. But the reason it was an obvious step to turn this woman’s diaries into a play is not merely because of her ‘deviant’ politics, or her contentious death, but because she is a remarkable writer. Following the success of the play, her writings have now been published as a book.

I was overwhelmed by the keen political awareness and humble self-awareness of someone so young and so, well… American. The play has oft been accused of being ‘one-sided’. Good. It’s the side we never hear about. It’s the side whose story rarely sees the light of day and whose actions are always reported out of context by the other ‘side’.

It’s not often we get to see works of a politically controversial nature on the Auckland stage and my hat is off to all those involved in bringing this story to life, which is inspiring and moving and as pertinent today as it was at the time of writing. This month there are so-called peace talks underway in Jerusalem; Corrie’s case has finally been granted what will hopefully be a thorough hearing in Haifa district court (the Israeli army investigation in 2003 was a whitewash).

My Name is Rachel Corrie provides a vivid first-hand view that is essential viewing in dispelling the masticated myth that is dropped into our little tweeting bird mouths by the mainstream media with regard to the Israel-Palestine ‘conflict’.

It’s only on for a week, so hurry up and get your bum on a seat!
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Politics fires passion of controversial play

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 12th Apr 2010

The English playwright David Hare wrote and performed on stage in London and New York a solo play called Via Dolorosa, which is about his experiences in Israel and Palestine.
 
In a diary he published about his novice attempts to act on the professional stage, he came to the realisation that the subject matter he was dealing with could not be turned into a conventional play.
 
He decided the only way he could be true to his subject would be by rejecting enactment altogether, and drawing the material back where it belongs – in the eye and in the voice of the beholder.
 
In the solo play My Name is Rachel Corrie, Alan Rickman and Katherine Viner make us see and feel the plight of the Palestinians because we see them through the concerned eyes and expressive voice of a passionate beholder, who is brilliantly captured in Kate Prior’s performance.
 
We empathise with this young, lively, intelligent middle-class American woman who wanted to do something to make the world a better place because she’s funny, disorganised, and full of beans. She could so easily have stayed in Olympia, Washington, and lived a secure life.
 
Instead she became an American Evergreen College student and a member of the International Solidarity Movement, which eventually led to her working and living with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip during the Second Intifada.
 
The play has been branded as one-sided, with charges that it would provoke in Canada a negative reaction in the Jewish community, while The New York Theatre Workshop, where the play was to be performed in 2006, postponed it indefinitely. It was performed later in the same year in Greenwich Village.
 
Rachel Corrie may have been naive in believing that most Palestinians were engaged in Gandhian non-violent resistance but she was at least trying to do something, however misguided her detractors seem to think she was: to make the world a better place so that homes are not bulldozed, vast steel walls are not built and people are not killed because they happened to be in the way.
 
The passion in Kate Prior’s eloquent performance comes through strongly in the second half of the play. In the first half she creates an appealing portrait of Rachel’s youthful excitement about the possibilities in front of her. The production, the setting, the lighting and the special effects are all first-rate.
 
A programme note states that April 10, 2010, is the anniversary of Rachel Corrie’s birthday. She would have turned 31. She was killed in disputed circumstances by a bulldozer operated by the Israel Defence Forces on March 16, 2003
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Moving transition

Review by Hannah Smith 09th Apr 2010

My Name Is Rachel Corrie made me feel white, middle class and guilty. Which I pretty much think is great. It makes a bid to be political, in the obvious and unsubtle fashion of youth, and in these terms it succeeds. I had a little cry.

The piece is built from the diaries and emails of the real life Rachel Corrie, an American student who was killed in Palestine by an Israeli bulldozer whilst working as a peace activist. Originally produced in London under the direction of Alan Rickman, this BATS run is a restaging of a season at The Forge in Christchurch in 2009. 

Solo performer Kate Prior gives an excellent and what must be an exhausting performance. Prior puts every muscle in her face to work and her Rachel Corrie is quirky, vivacious and, at the beginning, a little bit annoying. She is well cast, her exaggerated physicality seems appropriate for this role: a girl who is young, fierce and independent and also pretty ‘alternative’ (read: borderline crazy).

Lara Macgregor’s direction gives Prior a lot to do – she is kept busy with 75 mins of furious and finicky stage business. There is never a dull moment, and what feels at first like an exercise in acting while tidying your bedroom is actually a neatly crafted transition from the exuberant and scattered Rachel who starts the play to the very different character who ends it.

This is, for me, the most elegant feature of the production. Young hyper-irritating Rachel – in her messy bedroom with all her quirky white middle class symbols of identity – strips back, grows up and calms down. The artist postcards are packed away. The frenetic movement stops. The actress takes a seat just left of centre and delivers a compelling and articulate monologue that is really very moving. This moment has power because of the contrast with all that came before.

The production design is retained from the original season at The Forge. Glenn Ashworth’s set, re-designed and built from the original design by Rita Carmody, complements the action well: striking, simple and with a cunning surprise.

Costume (Rita Carmody again) is contemporary casual and does all it needs to, indicating character and adding colour. Josh Major’s lighting design is also colourful, too colourful for my taste (the Green Gobo of the Gaza Strip deserves mention) but if things aren’t subtle at least they’re visible, and the light for the monologue mentioned above was actually beautiful.

We don’t often see challenging political work like this in Wellington. Both the material and its presentation are deserving of an audience. It is a goer. I recommend it.
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Michael Wray April 17th, 2010

This is the second show at Bats to feature the story of Rachel Corrie.

Death (and love) in Gaza http://www.theatreview.org.nz/reviews/review.php?id=286 played nearly four years ago. I found the different styles between the two productions very interesting. Death & Love made me feel like I was on the end of a political lecture, whereas My Name was  grounded in telling the story of an individual caught up in a political situation.

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A living force in a cocoon of real words

Review by Lindsay Clark 30th May 2009

The latest offering at The Forge comes with an impressive record of international success and is itself part of a wider crusade for peace and justice in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (http://www.rachelcorriefoundation.org/site/). First performed in 2005 at the Royal Court in London, the play was at  the centre of a predictable controversy when first attempted in politically sensitive New York, adding to its eventual impact there and all over the world.

Few would argue with the idealism and humanity which inspires it and as verbatim theatre pieced together from the real diaries and e-mails of Rachel herself it is undeniably significant. They trace her early family life in Olympia, Washington (she was born in 1979), her involvement with the International Solidarity Movement and tragic death in 2003 , seeking to protect a Palestinian family home from an Israeli military bulldozer. A short life then, which has nevertheless touched a nerve in a world numbed by the incessant horror of war.

The challenge for a solo performer is daunting and trust between the director, Lara Macgregor, and Kate Prior as Rachel has clearly been at the heart of the performed work, as it establishes an endlessly curious and questing young woman faced with the concentrated madness of destruction in Palestine and the unshakeable dignity and generosity of its impoverished citizens. 

In this role, Kate Prior manages with expressive ease the transition from the humorous  exuberance of her life in Olympia to the gritty understatement of its final phase, and was rewarded on the opening night by warm applause. No mere imitation of Rachel, she is convincing as a living force in a cocoon of real words.

In spite of her performance however, the play did not deeply engage me either politically or as a human story. The ‘talking head’ aspect is a given of course, since the events are framed for solo voice, but somehow the factual record of terrible events, without verbal or visual images to confirm them, do not work well in theatre. Perhaps too the ending did not resonate as I was anticipating though the deadly bulldozer seemed an effective metaphor for the whole tragic situation.

If the play opens wider debate about compassion and tolerance,  it will certainly have rewarded the spirited commitment of Rachel Corrie herself. Meanwhile this production stands as an interesting contribution to the spectrum of challenging work at The Forge.
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