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My Name Is Rachel Corrie review at Young Vic, London – ‘Erin Doherty is riveting’

Erin Doherty in My Name Is Rachel Corrie at the Young Vic, London. Photo: Ellie Kurrtz
Erin Doherty in My Name Is Rachel Corrie at the Young Vic, London. Photo: Ellie Kurrtz

Peace activist Rachel Corrie was 23 years old when she was killed by an Israeli bulldozer while protesting the demolition of Palestinian homes. Premiered at London’s Royal Court in 2005, My Name Is Rachel Corrie is a stirring verbatim piece assembled from her emails, journal entries and handwritten lists.

Josh Roche, winner of this year's JMK Award for emerging theatre directors, uses this politically charged subject matter as a springboard to a compelling character study. Erin Doherty is never less than riveting as Corrie, skilfully navigating the author’s rapid switches from eloquent to bewildered, from optimistic to appalled.

Humorous and humanising, her portrayal excavates the raw sensitivity underpinning Corrie’s complex ethical rambles, perfectly capturing the sense of an awkward outsider rigorously questioning her own motivations.

Sophie Thomas’ striking yet economical set achieves a real visual punch with the barest materials, the performance taking place on an empty expanse of plywood panels stained from blood-clot red to diffuse sunset pink. A ragged monolith looms over it all, serving both as a handy surface for Doherty to staple sheaves of paper upon, and as an instantly recognisable stand-in for the border wall enclosing Gaza.

The lighting, by Joe Price, is similarly simple and effective, breaking up each sequence with stark changes, or letting a muggy red glow seep in as Corrie becomes lost in her thoughts. Often, it is Doherty herself changing the gels and angling the lights, taking an appropriately hands-on approach to the story of a woman who strove for positive change with energetic practicality.

Verdict
Erin Doherty shines in this autobiographical tale of the life and death of an activist
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