Review: Build a Rocket by Stephen Joseph Theatre

A proper tour de force from a leading actor

theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
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Build A Rocket
Published 05 Aug 2018

"Dear dickhead..." So begins Build a Rocket, with teen Yasmine composing an email to Daniel, the absent father of the son growing inside her. An aggressive defiance marks this depiction of triumph over adversity, but what's truly compelling is the vulnerability and tenderness of star Serena Manteghi. Christopher York's script calls for locomotive energy as events in Yasmine's life fly by at sadistic speed, and the performer somehow brings clarity and emotional heft to a chaotic whirlwind.

When 16-year-old Yasmine finds herself swept up in a romantic entanglement with an older man, her attention drifts away from exams and thoughts of the future. As the fling grinds to a sudden, adulterous halt, the "silly little girl from Scarborough" finds herself with no prospects of her own, nor means to provide for the carelessly conceived baby to which she's now tied. Over the course of this one-woman show, Yasmine emerges as a born fighter. Unlike Icarus whose wax wings melted when he flew too close to the son, our protagonist vows to launch herself directly into the celestial body, achieving her aspirations with little consideration of practicality and strategy.

If the play can be criticised, it's for granting us a feel good ending in very black and white terms. A burden with the potential to completely derail Yasmine's life is turned into a positive, her responsibility toward someone else prompting hard won self improvement and resulting in an artlessly neat happy ending. It's to Manteghi's credit that we find ourselves rooting for this cliche.