“Dear… …D …D*ckhead!”
That’s how the play starts. With a girl in a pair of adidas and a gold nameplate, looking right at the audience, and calling them a d*ckhead!
I was not quite sure what to expect with Build A Rocket. The name did not seem to make much sense next to the short description that accompanies it on the flyer. All I knew going in was it had done very well during the Fringe, and it was about a sixteen year old from Scarborough, who gets pregnant.
All that’s on stage when you walk in is a silver duct-taped box, surrounded by four, what essentially look like, bike parking stands, with LED lights stuck to the underside. It looks grungy and ever so slightly homemade, but don’t be fooled – the production is nothing short of absolute brilliance.
Our one-woman show is performed by the incredibly talented Serena Manteghi, who has been involved with the show on and off, for about two and a half years now. Serena is not only wonderful in the role of the protagonist, Yasmin (our pregnant 16 year old), but she also switches at the drop of the hat to play creepy men in clubs, Yasmin’s alcoholic mother, her counsellor, doctors, friends, teachers, the list goes on! Each character is distinct and separate, both in accent and mannerisms. What has the potential to be quite confusing, has only been made clearer through Manteghi’s fabulous acting.
Having said this, she cannot take all the credit! The lighting (Ben Cowens) and sound (Simon Slater) are both completely integral to the show; yet, they are so seamlessly co-ordinated with the action on stage that one only subconsciously clocks them, if at all. The play has a somewhat scattered feel with the chronology, flickering back and forth between flashbacks, and through montages. As great as Manteghi is with the physical demands of this, there is only so much that one girl can do! At these points, the changes in lighting, from reds to a piercing white, and music, from rap, to eerie discord, all perfectly timed with Manteghi’s change in body language or character, unobtrusively aid the audience in understanding what is happening on stage, giving the play an almost movie-like quality.
So why is it half a star short of perfection? I have the tiniest niggle: some of the jokes are very Scarborough-specific, and whilst you do understand them, the full effects are sadly somewhat lost on a non-Scarborough audience. However, I still loved it!
The flyer says Build A Rocket is about ‘triumph over adversity,’ – and it is, but I would say it’s about so much more than that! It’s about growing up, and our teenage naïveté, our first love, and first heartbreak, both the strength and burden of being a woman, and the happiness and sorrows of being a mother. Yes, it’s about a sixteen year old from Scarborough, but it’s a story with which we can all identify. I couldn’t recommend watching it more!
Build A Rocket runs at the Traverse Theatre until 17 October 2019.