Build a Rocket review – reaching for the stars in Scarborough

Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh
Serena Manteghi gives a high-voltage performance but the story feels far too familiar in Christopher York’s play for the Stephen Joseph theatre

It’s not only the title that calls to mind Elbow’s Lippy Kids. The very shape of Christopher York’s play for the Stephen Joseph theatre in Scarborough mirrors the Manchester band’s penchant for grand emotional swells and tales of ordinary people reaching for the stars. If only his script had the narrative economy of a pop song.

Given a high-voltage performance by Serena Manteghi, cheery, breathless and committed, it’s an everyday story of a teen pregnancy. Yasmin is a bright and lively schoolgirl who interrupts her exams for a fling with Danny, a DJ from the upmarket side of Scarborough with a similar taste in music and good times. Swept off her feet, she falls for this older man only for his attentions to drift elsewhere. Single motherhood is the predictable consequence of a story that feels too familiar – the girl, young and naive; the boy, footloose and cynical – right down to Yasmin’s alcoholic mother and her maternity-ward dramas.

Paul Robinson’s production is carried by the energy of Manteghi’s performance and the free-rhyming poetry of York’s first full-length script, but there’s little to distinguish it beyond that. It’s only in the closing sequence, a fast-tracked trip through the formative years of baby Jack, that a less familiar play begins to emerge. Although too hastily explored for full emotional impact, it’s about a single mother’s ambitions for her son, their combined efforts to resist a seemingly inevitable working-class fate (“because our postcode is YO12”) and the possibility of realising Yasmin’s personal Shirley Valentine dreams. With its moving themes of struggle and transformation, it makes the early part of the play seem like preamble.


Mark Fisher

The GuardianTramp

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