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Build a Rocket

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

Teenage dreams given the rudest of awakenings by the unwanted pregnancy of what certain tabloids used to sneeringly dismiss as a gymslip mum is a plot device laboured enough to have become cliché. If real life wasn’t so chock-a-block with such things, there would never have been any need for everyday dramadies from A Taste of Honey to Pramface and beyond.

Christopher York’s debut play for the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough took its first baby steps at last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe with something that took things further. All grown up now and out on tour following a stint in Adelaide, Paul Robinson’s production features a turbo-charged performance from Serena Manteghi as sixteen-year-old Yasmin, too clever for her own good despite an alcoholic mum and an errant father.

Yasmin falls for DJ Danny at the local nightclub when she should be studying. Danny has a cool flat in the poshest street in town, and Yasmin thinks it’s for life until he suddenly stops returning her calls when she tells him she’s pregnant.

So far so kitchen-sink, as Yasmin squares up to the fact that her carefree youth might be over, as well as the fact that the rent is in arrears and her best mate has taken her place with Danny. Once baby Jack arrives, however, what initially looks set to continue an increasingly downward spiral takes a leap into something more positive, as Yasmin and Jack take small steps that turn into big leaps to transcend their lot in ways we’re told aren’t allowed anymore.

Sat astride what looks like a symbolic merry-go-round by designer Helen Coyston, Manteghi’s vibrant presence can’t help but exude hope, as she seems to visibly mature from an out of her depth adolescent to a responsible parent determined to break the mould. Yes, it’s unashamedly sentimental, but York’s writing is as alive to possibilities as Yasmin is in a play that’s fired by heart, soul and pure love enough to take you to the moon and back.

The Herald, October 17th 2019


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