Build a Rocket @ Traverse, Edinburgh

Serena Manteghi shines in the funny and moving one-woman show Build a Rocket

Review by Maya Jones | 23 Oct 2019
  • Build A Rocket @ Traverse, Edinburgh

Build a Rocket is an uplifting tale of teenage pregnancy, strength and defying the odds. Serena Manteghi plays Yasmin, a working-class teen from Scarborough who falls for a local DJ and ends up pregnant. With no qualifications or support network, Yasmin is left to navigate the highs and lows of being a teenage mum on her own. The subject matter is hardly ground-breaking, but it makes for a deeply funny and moving one-woman show.  

In what could be seen as a defining moment of the play, a counsellor asks Yasmin: “Do you think you are the first person for this to happen to?” Herein lies the problem: this is a familiar and predictable story. From Yasmin’s unhappy childhood to her failure to gain any GCSEs, Build a Rocket offers few surprises in the way of plot. And whilst Yasmin is captivating, the rest of Christopher York’s characters feel like underdeveloped stereotypes – the alcoholic mother, the sleazy landlord, the back-stabbing best friend and the inept father of Yasmin’s child all bring little depth to the play. 

That said, there are flashes of brilliance in York’s writing that make Build a Rocket a promising debut. He has a gift for comedy writing, and Manteghi delivers these lines with perfect comedic timing. Depicting Yasmin’s GCSEs as a gameshow is particularly inventive, and the birth of her child manages to be both hilarious and tender. The script is at its best when Yasmin’s speech flows like a teenage girl’s – freewheeling, quick-witted and punchy. Her tendency to veer into rhymed verse feels forced by contrast. 

Final mention must go to Manteghi, who shows an impressive range as she dances between emotional and comedic scenes with ease. Director Paul Robinson has chosen a minimal stage, which is all she needs to command the audience’s attention for over 75 minutes. Build a Rocket may be a predictable story, but it is held together by her lively and fast-paced performance. 

UK tour continues until 26 Oct