My Name Is Rachel Corrie
Daniel Clarke & Hannah Norris @ AC Arts – X Space
2:00pm, Sat 13 Mar 2010
To say that this show had garnered the lion’s share of the word-of-mouth buzz around town would be an understatement; just about every theatre-goer, Fringe-centric or not, would drop Rachel Corrie into conversation. The disconcerting thing for me, who scheduled this last-Saturday-of-the-Fringe matinee in early, was that the general tone accompanying those mentions was very variable. Some people would bring it up with the glistening eyes of the true believer; others would tilt their heads forward just a little, and look at you through the guarded corners of their eyes – like they were participating in The Great Betrayal.
So I was a little apprehensive walking into the X Space. I took a seat at the top of the stairs, right next to the chap operating a video camera; it was a great view of the stage, littered with cardboard boxes, and the crowd – a reasonable group of forty or fifty for a lazy Saturday matinée.
As soon as the performance starts, you can acknowledge the production values are first-rate; Hannah Norris is polished as the titular Rachel Corrie, and her performance was extremely accomplished. Daniel Clarke’s direction, too, is stunning; Norris’ blocking is divine, and her constant rearrangement of the cardboard boxes to provide just-in-time projection surfaces for stars, videos, or trigger words was brilliantly arranged. The projections themselves were wonderfully done, too, along with the lighting in general.
The big problem, though, is the content.
The forty-five minutes that constituted the “background” of Rachel Corrie (stories of her parents, her friends, her schooling, all attempting to underline the “artistic sensibilities” of the woman) were tedious, fragmented, and… well, horrible to watch. And it’s not until she builds the cardboard boxes into a giant wall, which subsequently tumbles down (accompanying her arrival in Gaza) that it becomes mildly interesting. There’s still constant references back to her parents that ruin the pacing, and one flashback (to Todd?) is inexplicable in its inclusion. There seems to be a deliberate over-emphasis on portraying Corrie as a naïve, well-intentioned innocent; and there’s masses of cheap, emotive monologue that verges on the preachy – and I hate being preached to.
Note that I’m not railing against the message – just the way it’s been embedded into this stodge. Because, technical excellence notwithstanding, My Name Is Rachel Corrie annoyed me from the get-go; I was clock-watching after thirty minutes, and thereafter begging for it to end.