Yasmin (Serena Manteghi) is a 'little girl from Scarborough', a 16-year-old from a poor English seaside town. Yasmin is fierce, determined and clever, but neglected – her parents are absent, and lacking encouragement she flunks out of school to spend more time with her older boyfriend. But when the relationship falls apart, and she finds out she's pregnant, Yasmin has to dig deep within herself to prove she can manage on her own.
Build a Rocket is theatre about the lowered expectations that leave people rooted to the bottom of the gravity well – the lack of social mobility afforded to the forgotten and ignored – and the ways in which they strive against them to achieve their aspirations. But gravity is persistent, so any triumph against adversity is hard-won and easily threatened – we need the support of others to lift us out.
Manteghi locates her story-telling in a commanding, dynamic performance. She brings studied authenticity to the host of characters she conjures up, over the duration of her monologue, to populate her narrative and give it genuine life. There is nothing boring about this play, and the performance skips along with plenty of laughs and tears to be found along the way.
The biggest weakness of the production is the premise. A lot of theatre has been done on the topic of teenage pregnancy in socially-disadvantaged areas, and the story hits more than a few familiar beats. I also thought Yasmin's characterisation was a bit inconsistent – for someone so articulate on contraception, she was surprisingly unwilling to discuss the possibility of an abortion. Together these issues weakened the opening for me, and I wasn't fully on board with Yasmin's plight until after the first act.
Build a Rocket plays at Holden Street Theatres until 17th March. Tickets can be purchased here.