The wonderfully warm surroundings of the Old Red Lion in Islington has its usual glow: flock wallpaper, chesterfield sofas, a dog sleeping on the floor and football on the telly (think I’ve just described my house in the 1970s?). A framed England rugby union shirt now adorns the wall, and a Norwich City St Georges flag hangs over the bar. Not only does it stock a range of lagers, craft beers and cider, it also houses one of the finest fringe theatres in London. What more could anyone ask?
Tonight’s production is the curiously titled Rattled. Perhaps not the most obvious production for Valentine’s night; Em (Rachel Harper) describes her marriage as an accident, like running over your neighbour’s cat. Ok, so it can be safely assumed that hearts and flowers are unlikely to feature in the piece. But what we do get is a fascinating one woman dialogue, mixing laugh out loud humour with heartbreaking emotional neglect.
Our story begins on a railway platform, where Em is sharing her bench with a baby in its carrier. Where has this baby come from, and why is Em sitting on this particular platform waiting for a train? Baby takes confessional from Em who describes her life: how she met husband Ian, a solid, dependable type, the Nokia 3210 of blokes (a truly great line!). But did he ever excite, stimulate or make her laugh? Did she just settle for Ian just because he was safe? And what about Ian’s polite home counties parents, who saw Em as a consolation prize for their only child; or her fractured childhood – the death of her mother, and estrangement from her father.
All are explored in the deepest of detail, but never does it over elaborate or feel remotely laboured. She confidently writes silence into the script – only a few seconds, but gives the audience time to absorb the story. Silence is a much underrated writing tool used to great effect. Rachel Harper is a significant new talent both as a performer and writer; if there’s any justice Rattled should make a star of Rachel.
Written and Performed by: Rachel Harper
Director: Jemma Gross
Producer: Missmanaged Theatre
Box Office: 0333 012 4963
Booking Link: https://www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk/rattled.html
Booking Until: 2 March 2019