by Mark Townsend | The Observer | 24 April 2005
She was the young American with blond hair whose death became an unlikely but powerful political symbol for the troubles of Palestine.
Now Rachel Corrie, crushed to death by an Israeli army bulldozer in the Gaza Strip two years ago, has caught the imagination of a fresh audience as her life story emerges as one of the most sought-after theatre tickets in the country.
The Royal Court in London announced yesterday that My Name is Rachel Corrie had become one the fastest sell-outs in its 50-year history. Tickets for the play's 24 performances sold out in less than two days, the majority of them bought by one of the youngest audiences the theatre can recall. Actor and director Alan Rickman, whose idea it was to transform Corrie's life into drama, is already looking at taking the play to the US where, unlike in Europe, the 23-year-old's death has generated modest media coverage.
In Britain in particular, the woman from Olympia, Washington, has become an aspirational figure for young people often seen as apathetic and uninterested in international issues.
Katharine Viner, editor of the Guardian Weekend magazine, co-edited Corrie's writings with Rickman. The diaries form the entire script. Viner said: 'What's been so exciting is how young people have been responding to it. It's not just that they are moved by Rachel's death, but also that they are inspired by her words and actions, that she found a way to be political in a depoliticised age.'
In contrast to the young people who have seen the play and the number of leading literary stars who are expected to attend this week, not a single politician from any of the major parties has watched the production, which began on 7 April.
Ewen Thomson of the Royal Court added: 'It's great that so many young people are coming to the theatre; that is quite rare.'
Rachel's parents, Craig and Cindy, who last week flew to London to watch the play, said: 'It is absolutely fantastic that she has inspired so many young people. The play was wonderful.'
The play's script draws wholly on letters Corrie wrote from as young as nine along with the emails she sent home from Gaza while working for the International Solidarity Movement. Before her death, Corrie had successfully prevented the demolition of Palestinian homes by standing in front them as bulldozers approached.
Her family is attempting to sue Caterpillar for supplying dozens of bulldozers to the Israeli government, which uses them to destroy Palestinian property. Corrie was killed on 16 March 2003 by a Caterpillar D-9 bulldozer. Her father, Craig, said that Caterpillar has contravened US torture laws by allowing its equipment to be used against the Palestinian people and their homes.
'It's immoral but also more to the point it is illegal. They continue to sell bulldozers knowing how they have been used in the past,' Craig said.