Home » London Theatre Reviews » Rattled by Rachel Harper at the Old Red Lion Theatre | Review

Rattled by Rachel Harper at the Old Red Lion Theatre | Review

Rattled, courtesy of Ali Wright
Rattled, courtesy of Ali Wright

I suspect there are people who have suffered childhood trauma and postnatal mental health that recognise the sort of thought processes that Em (Rachel Harper) vocalises in this one-woman show. Then there are going to be others who simply don’t identify at all with the sort of experiences that Em has had. To put it another way, this is one person’s story, and other stories on the same subject areas are bound to have various similarities and differences in their details. It is easy to make comparisons between this personal story and that of others – on a global scale, for instance, it’s not like Em has been forced out of her own country and had to seek political asylum somewhere else, and/or witnessed family members suffer at the hands of the militia.

That said, life has been unkind to her, and she finds herself on a railway station platform with her baby. An everyday occurrence: what’s so unkind about that? But it’s her state of mind that is rather worrying, even amongst all the dark humour, rich with sarcasm from beginning to end. The monologue has a naturalistic feel, coming across more like a stream of consciousness than a carefully constructed narrative. Although a good rapport is established with the audience, the story meanders a little more than a one-act, one-hour show would be reasonably expected to.

Then again, perhaps it has to, in order to address both childhood experiences and her current state in adulthood. But the atmosphere rarely gets depressing, and if it does, it doesn’t last, perhaps because of Em’s way of seeing the ‘funny’ side of things, expressed with a laugh that almost always has a hint of nervousness included. That the humour gets quite macabre at times suggests that a dark comedy approach is her ‘go to’ coping strategy with the various thoughts swirling in her head. And it is not as if she needs that much of a better sense of perspective – her thoughts on her marriage are, for instance, not really that far removed (if at all) from the thoughts many people who have been married for some years.

What I found intriguing about this play is that while there are no definitive solutions to resolve the issues Em is experiencing, she has also been left entirely to her own devices. There may well be support groups out there, but for whatever reason, these are neither mentioned nor thought about. There are, at least, certain songs that she can turn to (especially in these days of streaming music services and mobile telephony) in especially dark moments. She can’t seem to help repeatedly returning to her vivid memories of her school days, including one classroom incident in which she recalls what she did, how the school responded and how she managed to get one up on the school management in the aftermath.

It becomes clear that Em is highly intellectual – reflections about the animal kingdom were interesting (even if I couldn’t quite relate all of them back to the main storyline). The character development is substantial, and what increasingly clearly is a cry for help goes unnoticed by surrounding off-stage characters. Em somehow soldiers on regardless, and the production would appear to suggest that talking is the best ‘therapy’ (for want of a better word), in a safe space (or, failing that, a railway station). Some of what Em says is quite harrowing in hindsight, though much of the audience chortled away at some of the revelations. A focused, briskly-paced and intense production with plenty of food for thought.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Missmanaged Theatre make their debut with Rattled, a vital new piece of writing exploring childhood trauma and postnatal mental health. This one-woman show puts childhood trauma under the microscope and reviews its effect on adult life in a witty examination of mental health, self-preservation and human resilience.

Rattled was created after a heart-breaking confession about motherhood inspired writer Rachel Harper to further explore postnatal mental health. Together with working mum and director Jemma Gross, they were inspired to actively help new mothers on and off stage by partnering with Bea & Co to make theatre more accessible. This bespoke childcare agency will be offering free childcare to those attending Sunday matinees and at-home discounted childcare to audience members attending evening shows.

Rattled looks at isolation and loneliness in busy cities and the effect this has mentally on someone who has already experienced terrible trauma. It puts the spotlight on postnatal mental health, on the lack of awareness of this often under-reported issue, and the lack of support for new mothers in the UK.

Producer Missmanaged
Director Jemma Gross
Writer/Performer Rachel Harper
Designer Florence Hazard
Lighting Design Sherry Coenan

Rattled
Tuesday 12th February – Saturday 2nd March 2019
Running time 60 minutes
Age Recommendation 14+ (contains themes of child abuse)
Old Red Lion Theatre, 418 John Street, London EC1V 4NJ

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1 thought on “Rattled by Rachel Harper at the Old Red Lion Theatre | Review”

  1. Saw this play last night, totally blown away by it, humour to heartbreak and every emotion in-between a totally amazing piece of theatre.

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