A New York theatre company has put off plans to stage a play about an American activist killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza because of the current "political climate" - a decision the play's British director, Alan Rickman, denounced yesterday as "censorship".
James Nicola, the artistic director of the New York Theatre Workshop, said it had never formally announced it would be staging the play, My Name is Rachel Corrie, but it had been considering staging it in March.
"In our pre-production planning and our talking around and listening in our communities in New York, what we heard was that after Ariel Sharon's illness and the election of Hamas, we had a very edgy situation," Mr Nicola said.
"We found that our plan to present a work of art would be seen as us taking a stand in a political conflict, that we didn't want to take."
He said he had suggested a postponement until next year.
Mr Rickman, best known for his film acting roles in Love, Actually and the Harry Potter series and who directed the play at London's Royal Court Theatre, denounced the decision.
"I can only guess at the pressures of funding an independent theatre company in New York, but calling this production "postponed" does not disguise the fact that it has been cancelled," Mr Rickman said in a statement.
"This is censorship born out of fear, and the New York Theatre Workshop, the Royal Court, New York audiences - all of us are the losers."
Rachel Corrie was a 23-year-old activist from Washington state crushed in March 2003 when she put herself between an Israeli army bulldozer and a Palestinian home it was about to demolish in Rafah, on the Egyptian border.
The International Solidarity Movement, of which she was a member, claimed the bulldozer driver ran her over deliberately. The Israeli Defence Forces said it was an accident, and that she was killed by falling debris.
The Israeli government said the demolitions were aimed at creating a "security zone" along the border. The Palestinians say they are a form of collective punishment.
"Rachel Corrie lived in nobody's pocket but her own. Whether one is sympathetic with her or not, her voice is like a clarion in the fog and should be heard," Mr Rickman said.
My Name is Rachel Corrie consists of her diary entries and emails home, edited by Mr Rickman and Katharine Viner, features editor of The Guardian. It won the best new play prize at this year's Theatregoers' Choice Awards in London.
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