Theatre review: Build a Rocket, Pleasance Courtyard

We first meet Yasmin, a self-declared 'stupid little girl from Scarborough', spitting eloquent fury by email. She has consulted a thesaurus for the occasion and invokes the revenge of Medea, so already we know that Yasmin is not so stupid.
Yasmin is brilliantly portrayed by Serena Manteghi. Picture: ContributedYasmin is brilliantly portrayed by Serena Manteghi. Picture: Contributed
Yasmin is brilliantly portrayed by Serena Manteghi. Picture: Contributed

Build a Rocket, Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33) ****

But she has learned to keep up an aggressive front from the hard cases in her family and she’s in trouble now – the old-fashioned kind of “trouble”, pregnant at 16 by a local DJ who has gone to ground.

What could have been a dark fable is treated with strength, humour and erudition. There are glimpses of the child that she is, angry and scared but able to move forward when treated with empathy to make a decision which really is life-changing and character-forming. We see Yasmin, as brilliantly portrayed by Serena Manteghi, transform before our eyes from a brittle, mouthy teenager to a young woman who learns to pick her fights.

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Build a Rocket really starts to rev up when Yasmin rises to the 24/7 onslaught of single motherhood to a curious, energetic boy – and just how much of a challenge it is with next to no personal or professional support – tracing the waxing and waning relationships with his father and her mother, the difficulties of dating, the slog of her cleaning job, the joys of her son’s development and her refusal to submit to the postcode lottery.

This is all standard, believable stuff, delivered with pedal-to-the-metal conviction but there is great emotional potency in the extended montage of her boy’s life as the show accelerates to the finish line through his first fight but also his burgeoning gift for science and numbers, the squandered potential of his teenage years right up to the exam results which take him to a somewhat different crossroads than the one at which Yasmin started.

• Until 27 August, 4:30pm