‘Sensitive, thoughtful, heartbreaking and very, very funny’
Post-natal depression is often depicted as baby blues- a bit of weeping and wailing and then back to normal- so it’s refreshing to see a production that shows how complex and confusing PND can be.
Written and performed by Rachel Harper after a conversation with a new mum who was experiencing PND, this is an exploration of the deeper background and wider consequences of becoming a parent.
It’s tough subject matter but Rattled is really, really funny too. Our main character is a tough cookie who has had a difficult upbringing. She’s now married but not necessarily happily. Marriage is not all happy ever after and she’s seems startled that she’s actually married to someone called Ian, a dull Nokia 3310 of a man who isn’t exactly Prince Charming.
Standing on the dark platform of a suburban railway station she’s concerned that someone seems to have abandoned a baby in a carrier. It’s definitely not hers. Nope. She makes a half-hearted attempt to attract attention but the station is unstaffed save for impersonal daily updates and those dead-behind-the-voice ‘See it, say it, sorted’ announcements. Waiting on a deserted platform at twilight can seem like entering a twilight zone.
Rachel Harper gives a superb performance. Humour is her armour and she weaves her story back and forth, often stopping abruptly, her mind darting from one subject to another. Animal parents feature heavily but parenting a human child is a rather different matter to birthing a litter of ferrets and although she talks vehemently about not wanting a baby we somehow know that she and the abandoned baby are somehow connected.
The set from Florence Hazard is appropriately bleak, the only prop a bench painted municipal green. Sound design from Nicola Chang ebbs and flows with the story and lighting design from Sherry Coenen in simple but effective albeit a little too dark to see Harper’s expressive face clearly at the beginning.
Jemma Gross directs with a deft hand and has her actor using every plane of the space but this is Rachel Harper’s show. She’s nervy, jokey, matey, sweet, vulnerable and broken and pulls the audience with her so that it seems impossible to tell so much story in under an hour.
Mismanaged Theatre is also to be commended for the sensitive and thoughtful way it has approached this production, including accessibility. The show deals with some tricky topics and the company acknowledges that this may act as a trigger and that it’s ok if anyone feels overwhelmed and has to step out. Immediately after the show we’re pointed towards three different sources of potential support which are also printed on the programme. But perhaps the most thoughtful aspect is that the company has teamed up with Bea&Co, a childcare company so that parents can access free care on Sunday matinees. Theatre often forgets that many who work and play in the world don’t stop when they have children! It’s refreshing to see a company making their production accessible for a broad range of audience members. More of this please, theatre companies!
RATTLED written and performed by Rachel Harper
Directed by Jemma Gross
Presented by Mismanaged Theatre
Old Red Lion Theatre, 12 Feb - 2nd March 2019
Box Office: https://www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk/rattled.html
Siân Rowland is a playwright and comedy writer represented by Kitson Press.