ACTOR, writer, musician and now artistic director of her own theatre company, Wrexham-born Rachel Harper isn’t afraid of a little hard work.

After graduating from East 15 Acting School, in Essex, in 2016, she has worked on various projects within film and theatre, but ultimately found one of her biggest passions to be writing.

Her new play Rattled, which she has written, produced and also performs in, explores many difficult subjects, including postnatal mental health and she describes the play as a “darkly comic and fast-paced one woman show about how we process childhood trauma”.

The play, currently running at London’s Old Red Lion Theatre, has seen Rachel receive a nomination for Best Female Performance in the Off West Awards, with one critic saying her performance deserves to make the actress “a star”.

As Rachel explains, it was the responses to her first project, The Edinburgh Test, a play that follows four new mothers as they navigate the highs and lows of parenthood, which informed and inspired Rattled.

“The Edinburgh Test was workshopped with mothers, midwives, birth councillors,” she says.

“They really connected with the text and at the end of the workshop, a mother approached me with a story of her ‘worst day’ - what it was to be at her lowest.

“It really resonated with me even though I’m not a mother. I thought the fact she’d been through this and had come out the other side needed to be talked about, so I wrote a one woman show which was loosely inspired by this chat.”

The trailer for Rattled features a distressed woman on an empty train station platform with a baby carrier and follows the central character Em as she explores the effects of childhood trauma and confronts her past.

“She’s in her mid-20s and is in a very unhappy place in her life,” says Rachel. “She’s had a rough time of it from the get go and we look at how mental health isn’t talked about enough especially postnatal mental health, which seems to have been forgotten about.”

Rachel hopes that by raising concerns about mental health support, parental support, combatting loneliness and isolation, she can make a difference to some of the play’s audience.

“On all of our material we provide contact details for groups like the Samaritans, the National Childbirth Trust and PANDAS Foundation which gives support to people coping with pre and postnatal mental illnesses, and we’ve been very active about starting conversations around these issues.”

Rachel created her theatre company Missmanaged in 2017, alongside fellow actress and artistic director Catherine Chalk, with the aim of celebrating female artists.

“It’s a female-centric company and we only hire female creatives,” she explains. “There is such a gender imbalance in our industry we have decided to take matters into our own hands.

“At Missmanaged, we aim to create well rounded, fully representational theatre, particularly focusing on taboo topics and under-represented voices, and at the helm of every production is an all-female creative team.”

Unsurprisingly given the ethos of the company, Missmanaged are even providing childcare for creatives working on Rattled and going one step further by also offering it to audience members for select performances, with free care for two hours to parents attending the Sunday matinee performances.

“It’s having a really nice ripple effect,” says Rachel. “Other companies are getting in touch and saying ‘that’s brilliant - how do we do that?’ A big aspect of what we look at in the play is loneliness when you’re a new parent.

“Our director has a two-year-old and this has been her first play directing, so she’s had to bring her child and we thought it was vital to provide a safe and stress free environment for her during rehearsals.

“Walking down into a room full of children after the show made me so happy - it was so welcoming. Theatre is about accessiblity and it should be for everyone, not just a specific group who can afford childcare. It’s our thank you to the parents.”

Rachel grew up in Caergwrle, in Flintshire, where she says she knew she would be a performer from an early age.

“My parents knew from the first time I forced them to sit down and watch me in concert when I was four-years-old,” she laughs. “I trained as an actor and fight director and after graduating three years ago I realised pretty quickly it was an over-saturated industry.

“Unless you’re actively creating work it is very hard to find your footing, so when I met Catherine we realised we couldn’t sit around and wait for something to happen.

“Now I’ve been nominated for the award and great reviews are coming in, so it’s all been so lovely and really worth doing.”

Rachel is a big admirer of Mold’s Theatr Clwyd and hopes to bring Rattled to local audiences at some point.

“Tamara Harvey, who is the artistic director at Theatr Clwyd, is an amazing working mum who is very open about the challenges she faces,” she adds.

“She’s done a lot to destigmatise these issues and she was part of the inspiration for us to make our play accessible to parents. It would be wonderful to bring Rattled up to North Wales and fingers crossed we will.”

Rattled by Rachel Harper is at the Old Red Lion Theatre, Clerkenwell, London, until Saturday, March 2, 2019.