Interview With…Rachel Harper

The writer spoke to Love London Love Culture about her new play coming to the Old Red Lion Theatre from the 12th February. 

Hi Rachel, thanks for talking to me. Could you explain a bit more about what Rattled is about? Happy to! Rattled is a fast-paced and darkly comic one woman show that follows our central figure, Em, as she finds a baby seemingly abandoned on a train station platform. Counting down to the arrival of the next train, and tracking through the life that led Em to her lowest ebb, Rattled is an exploration of childhood trauma and female mental health told with humour, heart and brutal honesty. It’s one woman who just wants to know, whose baby is this?

How did the idea for the play come about? Last year I wrote my first full play, The Edinburgh Test, which explored the under-reported world of postnatal mental health. The play was focus grouped with mothers, midwives, nurses and birth councillors. After the play one mother got in touch to say how strongly she was moved by having her story told and went on to tell me of her darkest day. That day become the inspiration for Rattled.

What would you like for people to take away from Rattled?It takes a village. Mental health support, parental support, combatting loneliness and isolation – it takes a village. I always carry a packet of tissues on the tube because of how many people I have found in need of support (and that’s just on the Northern line!). I have held a woman’s hand while she sobbed at her dad’s passing, I’ve held a woman’s child whilst she folded down her pram: we have to take care of each other and the ripple effects of small acts of compassion create a much wider impact. There is also the bigger conversation of funding and support for mental health and early intervention on a national scale, but if next time someone’s crying on the tube someone offers them a tissue and gives them a hug, that would be a lovely thing. It takes a village, especially in a city.

Do you think there is enough support available for new and working parents?No I don’t, and I think it’s partly in the way we approach support, and what we deem support to be. With Rattled we are not only providing free childcare for our Director Jemma Gross, we are working our schedule to fit being a parent, we are finding child-friendly rehearsal spaces, and we love having Poppy (now our youngest associate artist) at production meetings. It is about making the room accessible, and with new parents that’s not just physical – it’s emotional. It’s about creating a stress free, open and understanding environment to work in (which is what we all want really!). Childcare costs are insane and in a career that’s both physically and emotionally taxing (not to mention financially) we need to put initiatives in place so that no parent feels they have to choose between family or career.

What are you most looking forward to about bringing Rattled to the Old Red Lion Theatre? SO MUCH! I can’t wait to work in that space – my first play was initially a ten-minute short performed at the Old Red Lion and this was where Catherine Chalk and I formed the company, so it seems so fitting to come full circle with our debut run! The support there is fantastic, I can’t speak highly enough of Katy Danbury, the Artistic Director, so I’m proud to have Rattled staged there. I’m also really excited that we are offering free child care at our Sunday matinees: we’ve partnered with Bea&co, a wonderful childcare agency, and I’m very excited to make this show accessible to a wider audience. And, of course, telling a moving and vital story.

How would you describe the play?I used to watch a lot of ‘Air Crash Investigates’ with my dad as a child. In every episode you found that the cause of the disaster was never just one thing – it was a series of events, a mixture of both human error and external forces. Rattled is a witty and heart-breaking exploration of such events. It’s the day we can all relate to in one way or another, when you end up asking yourself the question “How did I get here?”

By Emma Clarendon

Rattled will play at the Old Red Lion Theatre from the 12th February. 

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