Build-A-Rocket – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Writer: Christopher York

Director: Paul Robinson

Reviewer: Dominic Corr

We’ve all been there, falling for the D.J, or at least mismanaging our time when we should be studying. Taken in by the appeal of the dancefloor, those choice beats and a posh postcode, Yasmin strikes up a relationship of sorts with Danny. It all seems to be going rather well, Danny may be a bit older, but he just gets Yasmin, you know? That is, until she has important news for Danny, finding herself pregnant, her entire world is about to propel itself out of control – unless she can change its direction.

Utterly bounding with energy, the entire production is on the shoulders of Serena Manteghi’s free-flowing lyricism, as well as her fluid movement. Dancing atop a miniature merry-go-round, Helen Coyston has a subtle touch to the design work. Stationary, it serves its purpose as a platform for Manteghi. Directing over this, Paul Robinson explores this minimalist set as space which feels vaster than it is, transporting us to exam halls, club nights and the maternity ward. Framing it in an in-depth, prominent colour is Ben Cowan’s lighting design.

Partying the night away, Manteghi’s Yasmin cuts loose, focusing on ignoring the troubles in life rather than her exams. Full of variety, she takes Yasmin, an almost cookie-cutter role from a young woman, into mother, through despair, confusion and back into a part of strength. With such characterisation, her performance is as captivating as it is moving, wholly respectful in depiction, Manteghi’s emotional control is excellent.

Allowing for an aggressive portrayal of defiance, Christopher York’s piece is a narrative of female endurance. Just as it seems we’re meandering down the road of predictable young mothers, a cliché notorious with the likes of Coming of Age, Pramface, or Some Girls, Build-A-Rocket takes a U-turn into a refreshingly uplifting piece. Far from trivialising economic struggles, strife’s and desperation, there’s a reversal of the jeering, poverty-porn media profile of the single mother, a note of hope. A fighting pulse of triumph, opening up our eyes to the human factor of these children who become mere statistics.

Pre-ambling slightly, the opening half can’t quite measure up to York’s decisions concerning the later parts of the piece. Airs of two pieces, its second part is superior in all ways, the vigorous pacing allows Manteghi to spread her wings and soar. It transforms Build-A-Rocket from a run of the mill angst drama, with tumultuous merit, into a sound piece, with a richer connection to the audience. Building to lift-off, the ferocity as Yasmin shoots through Jack’s early years in life, the speed in which he grows, a talking-point, culminating in a pay-off which plays with expectations, offering a chance that what she feels may doom her, will save her. It’s here York’s writing is at its best.

The quaintness of Scarborough becomes a touch more daunting as an unexpected pregnancy looms. Build-A-Rocket aims high with commentary, leaving behind explored paths of the difficulties a working-class single mother experiences, and towards the ambitions she strives for. Promoting self-transformation, it all lies within Manteghi’s bombastic performance, splitting between euphoric panic, collapsing depression and enough passionate vim to fuel Build-A-Rocket into the atmosphere of expectation.

Runs until 18 October 2019 | Image: Contributed

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A narrative of female endurance

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The Reviews Hub - Scotland

The Scotland team is under the editorship of Lauren Humphreys. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. We aim to review all professional types of theatre, whether that be Commercial, Repertory or Fringe as well as Comedy, Music, Gigs etc.

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