Controversial play on Gaza returning to London stage

"It takes a lot of the subtext as gospel rather than as one side of a complicated story."

Press image of the controversial play. (photo credit: THE YOUNG VIC)
Press image of the controversial play.
(photo credit: THE YOUNG VIC)
Next month, the Young Vic theater will bring a familiar – but hotly contested – play back to the stage.
The London theater house will be staging My Name is Rachel Corrie, the purported tale of a young American activist killed in Gaza in 2003. The play was created by the late actor Alan Rickman and journalist Katharine Viner, who is now the editor-in-chief of The Guardian.
The play premiered in London in 2006 and has been staged more than a dozen times around the globe – even in Israel – but never without controversy.
Corrie, a 23-year-old American university student, traveled to the Gaza Strip as an activist and protester.
The play – and Corrie’s family and fellow activists – contends that the IDF intentionally ran over Corrie with a bulldozer while she was protesting home demolitions in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. But the IDF – and several Israeli courts – said Corrie was killed accidentally when she was crushed by debris during a military operation in a closed military zone. IDF officers testified that activists in the area ignored multiple orders to leave, and the bulldozer operator could not see Corrie from his position.
From the play’s first premiere, it has had Jewish and Israeli groups notably upset. Its return to the stage in London this fall is no exception.
“The play is extremely one-sided and heavily biased,” said Arieh Miller, the executive director of the Zionist Federation in the UK. “It takes a lot of the subtext as gospel rather than as one side of a complicated story.”
Miller said grassroots activists approached the Zionist Federation “to ask if we would support their campaigns against the play being shown.” The ZF is weighing what steps it can take before the play premieres on September 29.
The Young Vic theater declined to comment for this article. In released remarks, the theater’s artistic director, David Lan, said the “now famous account of one young woman’s opposition to the plight of the Palestinians is, sadly, as topical as ever.”
In an article in the Jewish Chronicle on Monday, Daniel Sugarman wrote that Lan will be stepping down next year after 17 years of “trying to advance an anti-Israel narrative in UK theater.”
The Israel Embassy in London declined to comment on the play’s staging.
But Yiftah Curiel, the outgoing spokesman of the embassy, wrote a blog post last week for the UK’s Jewish News Online calling the play emblematic of much of British media coverage of Israel.
“No matter that this account is a fabrication; no matter that Israel’s District and Supreme Courts rejected this story based on the testimony of independent experts – including those representing the Corrie family – and the IDF’s own original radio recordings of the incident,” he wrote. “The irony is that the Guardian’s coverage of Israel... bears a striking resemblance to this fictional description exemplified in the play produced by its now-editor: an emotional, subjective reading of reality, in which Israel is not merely in the wrong, but exceptionally and irredeemably evil.”