Actor Alan Rickman is furious with a New York theatre company for postponing a play because of the current "political climate" - branding it "censorship".

The LOVE ACTUALLY star, who directed the play at London's Royal Court Theatre, insists the company has called off staging the production, about an American activist who was killed by an Israeli army bulldozer, because they are scared of appearing to take sides on the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

The group's artistic director JAMES NICOLA says, "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.

"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."

Rickman says, "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.

"This is a censorship born out of fear, and the New York Theatre Workshop, the Royal Court, New York audiences - all of us are losers."

The play, called MY NAME IS RACHEL CORRIE, tells the true story of a 23-year-old activist who was crushed trying to stop the demolition of a Palestinian home in 2003.