Build a Rocket
The Fitzgerald, Manchester
The odds are against teenager Yasmin (sole performer Shannon Rewcroft) from the start. Stuck on a sink estate with an absentee mother more interested in her next drink than raising her daughter. History looks like repeating as Yasmin falls for the charms of a mouth and trousers DJ and ends up not only pregnant but missing her exams. Yet Yasmin clings to the possibility her son may be her salvation rather than just a burden.
Christopher York’s script for Build a Rocket takes Yasmin on an epic psychological journey from the conception of her son to his teenage years. The breathless nature of the script is such that events are not always logical—a Social Services investigation into Yasmin’s suitability as a mother starts during her son’s childhood and does not conclude until his teens.
The script slides on occasion from prose to blank verse and is stuffed with literary references—Yasmin aspires to behave like Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird and find adventures in mundane reality. There are ominous overtones—"M’dear" could be taken as "Medea" who was driven to tragically kill her own children.
Yasmin is, however, almost completely selfless, devoting herself to the well-being of her child. In a rare moment of calm, she uses optic lighting to create a starscape in her son’s room and is delighted when the precocious child points out errors.
Director Jordan Langford does not seem convinced the script is sufficient to hold audience attention and keeps Shannon Rewcroft in constant motion. Rewcroft dives into the audience, checking potential boyfriends and considering whether to swipe left or right or leading the crowd in a chorus of "Happy Birthday". At one point she even perches on a window ledge. The approach captures Yasmin’s desperation and chaotic lifestyle, but at times brings to mind the advice to an over-eager method actor: "don’t just do something—stand there."
Surprisingly, despite Yasmin’s incredible achievement in raising a child single-handed with no formal qualifications, Shannon Rewcroft choses to portray the character’s insecurities rather than her strengths. When composing an e-mail to the absentee father of her child, mother-to-be Yasmin admits to having to use a dictionary. It is not a self-hating performance but endlessly self-critical in assessing Yasmin’s suitability as a parent. It is a joy to see Yasmin finally acknowledge her achievements and accept her own worth compared to her useless boyfriend and mother.
Build a Rocket is an uplifting study of the personal growth of an insecure but very human character coming to understand herself and features an excellent central performance.
Reviewer: David Cunningham