Actor Hannah Norris transforms herself with flair and sensitivity playing the title role in My Name is Rachel Corrie.
The play is a one-woman show about the young American activist whose death at the age of 23 in the Gaza Strip caused an ongoing international outcry. The play is essentially a resurrection of sorts of an amazing young woman, who, fortunately for the world, was a gifted writer, a natural journalist and wise beyond her years. Keeping the audience entranced by Corrie’s exuberant personality and delight in observation, Norris does a splendid turn, her accent perfect, initially relating to the audience with an idiosyncratic, youthful charm then appreciably maturing throughout the ninety minutes she is on stage. An early trip to Russia gave Corrie a strong sense of wanting something more, personally, than the comfortable life she was leading in Olympia, Washington DC, and also a sense of owing the world something and the need to do what she could to stop injustice. Plus wanderlust; as she says “I’ve always been jealous of migratory birds.” There are some funny anecdotes, mostly to do with her exchanges with clients on a community work program she was involved with.
The set consists of cardboard boxes, which Norris packs up with clothes and belongings in the first half of the play and then later are revealed, once she is in Palestine, to house various props which she uses to further her story. For example, a small diarama of a house and some trees, and replicas of military bulldozers, are used to poignantly underline the fate of the dwelling. Her accounts of the events she witnesses, such as the relentless sabotage of the local water supply by the Israeli army, are so skilfully narrated you can feel an increasing sense of her anger and the frustration with the situation, and later, chillingly, her sense of the danger she was in.
The only quibble with the show which is a tiny flaw in generally distinguished direction by Daniel Clarke, is that Norris's pace and tone in the early stages of the piece are at moments too even; the delivery can become almost predictable. Overall, however, it is an excellent production, moving and compelling, and you do get an unforgettable sense, in Corrie’s own words, of a girl whose premature death was a tragedy on so many levels. Corrie’s relationship with her family glows solidly underneath the story, providing an added poignancy to the narrative. It is no surprise to learn that her parents are resolutely continuing her work in Gaza, and are currently involved in a civil action against the state of Israel over her death.
Everyone should see this play; without engaging in polemic or taking sides, indulging in mawkishness or self-indulgence, it helps to form a deep understanding, impossible to ignore, of what life for Palestinians in Gaza is really like.
MY NAME IS RACHEL CORRIE
based on the diaries and emails of Rachel Corrie | edited by Alan Rickman and Katharine Viner
Director Daniel Clarke
Venue: fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Dates: Wednesday 3 – Sunday 14 November, 2010
Times: 8:15pm (Sundays 5:15pm) 90minutes
Tickets: $25 (Conc) $30 (Full)