Theatre Review: Rattled at the Old Red Lion

Picture: Ali Wright

Picture: Ali Wright - Credit: Archant

It’s a bold move to schedule the press night of a new play about post-natal depression on Valentine’s Day.

Picture: Ali Wright

Picture: Ali Wright - Credit: Archant

But then the company behind the Old Red Lion’s production declares its feminist intentions with refreshing clarity: free childcare for their creatives, free childcare on Sunday matinees for this show and a partnership deal with an affiliated babysitting agency.

What’s not to like?

The monologue written and performed by Rachel Harper is based on the real-life testimony of a young woman suffering from extreme post-natal depression.

In what proves to be a horrifically blank meltdown, the woman fails to recognize that the baby on the train platform next to her is, in fact, her own child.

Picture: Ali Wright

Picture: Ali Wright - Credit: Archant

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The sixty minutes that ensue present a devastating re-telling of her suffocating marriage to dull but dependable Ian – ‘the Nokia 3210 of blokes with a solid battery life’ – and her traumatic childhood.

Significantly, the young woman doesn’t refer to her own name. Other main players she evokes include her emotionally abusive, alcoholic dad, her social climbing, buck—toothed stepmother and her punitive former headteacher.

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While they are conjured vividly as an oppressive line-up of characters that have blighted her life at various stages, the writing relies heavily on stereotypes to elicit laughs.

Harper takes pains to honour the spirit of her confidante and the writing is disarmingly honest and witty; the central character emerges as a rebellious, intelligent, passionate individual.

Harper herself is an immensely likeable presence on stage; diminutive with a quicksilver delivery as she powers through the tale in a soft Mancunian accent. A bare stage with one bench and stark lighting – the latter features some rather unnecessarily dramatic strobe effects to bookend the tale – certainly concentrates the action.

The fact that this particular story centres on abuse makes for an intense engagement with the issue of post-natal depression but it’s also somewhat limiting and risks conflating two issues, which could ironically stigmatize the condition it tries to explore.

I would have preferred several stories representing a broader demographic for a more universal impact.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Rattled continues at the Old Red Lion until Saturday March 2. For more details and tickets, click here.

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