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Review: Build a Rocket @ Live Theatre

Written by Arts

Build a Rocket follows the story of Yasmin (Serena Manteghi) a 16-year-old who has just told her ex (Danny) that she is pregnant. Mantenghi built a strong rapport with the audience, she has an amazing stage presence, which is essential in a one-person show. She clearly has vast emotional and physical range, the intimate studio space combined with the breaking of the fourth wall helped create a sense of closeness, as if Yasmin invited the audience along for the ride. 

Women are regularly punished or blamed for things that they were not solely responsible for. For example, Yasmin’s friend Sara is hit over the head with a plate after getting with Danny, but Danny faces no consequences at all. Danny is considerably older than both Yasmin and Sara. Yasmin’s landlord John also uses his age and capital to take advantage of Yasmin, this exploitation is never explored. 

Towards the end Danny tries to sleep with Yasmin although she resists his advances. Her decision to stop seeing Danny is utilised for comedic effect, which if more nuanced could be fine, but it didn’t work in this context. 

Men are voiced like great hulking beasts and seem to have no control over their actions, rather than complex, flawed beings. Showing men being awful is pointless unless it’s reflected upon. 

“The frankly Victorian attitude to motherhood further strips away her agency as she now lives only to be Jack’s mother.”

Yasmin never does anything for herself, she is either passive or does something for someone else. After she becomes a parent everything changes for her, her sense of self and her desires completely shift. Parenthood does have a massive effect on a person’s life, but mothers have hopes and dreams separate from their children. The frankly Victorian attitude to motherhood further strips away her agency as she now lives only to be Jack’s mother. 

“Men never face true consequences for their actions and the system that caused Yasmin to be a single mother struggling financially is never criticised beyond the occasional mentions of social services visiting.”

Yasmin’s fear of ruining Jack dominates the latter half of the play. She blames her mother and no one else for her upbringing. Men never face true consequences for their actions and the system that caused Yasmin to be a single mother struggling financially is never criticised beyond the occasional mentions of social services visiting. 

Yasmin starts attending evening classes and studies for her GCSEs and A-levels alongside her son Jack. She is also now dating Jack’s physics teacher. According to this play all you need to escape from poverty is to put the work in and be saved by your boy genius son. The suggestion that we live in a meritocracy is insulting. 

“The relatively naturalistic performance was peppered with stylised moments where Mantenghi would freeze or float, music would play in the background whilst a blue or red wash was used.

The relatively naturalistic performance was peppered with stylised moments where Mantenghi would freeze or float, music would play in the background whilst a blue or red wash was used. These moments were enjoyable but felt out of place. I wish the changes of characters, scenes and locations had been enhanced more and that these more stylised moments had been explored further. It felt like the play had no real stylistic integrity running throughout. Although the play borrowed aesthetically from more progressive theatre the play is far from it and ultimately delivers a more constrained experience and a conservative message that I had hoped for. 

Overall it was a fun watch and I would recommend going to see it just for Mantenghi’s energetic performance. 

Last modified: 11th October 2019

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