Serena Manteghi talks about defying expectations in BUILD A ROCKET at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your performing background?
I can indeed! My name is Serena Manteghi, I’m a London bird (born and bred), studied at Uni of York and to my continued surprise and delight, I have been pootling about the world as an actor ever since.

Tell me about your show, what it is all about?
Build A Rocket is about a young girl from Scarborough who falls unexpectedly pregnant at 16 years old and goes on to defy everyone’s expectations, including her own, about what kind of mother she can be.

How long have you been working on this show and what is it that makes it relevant to audiences in 2018?
I’ve been lucky enough to work on this show for a couple of years now. To see it finally being produced and given the audience it deserves is ace, to be performing it was beyond my imagining- I’m bloody chuffed! As to its relevance, the show very much lives in the present day. There’s a vividness in the writing which feels very ‘now’ but more crucially, it highlights the challenges facing disenfranchised young people and asks an audience to rethink what we might be able to do about it.

Do you have any top tips for surviving the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – both for performers and visitors to the event?
For performers – start every day with a fizzy Vitamin C supplement of your choice. For all – see Black Medicine for any and all caffeine-related needs. The best kebab (falafel in my case but I hear great things for meat-eaters also) is Palmyra on Nicholson Street – it is THE BEST late-night dinner. Oh, and climb Arthur’s Seat – it’s spectacular!

What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
Oh god, too many to count! Once at The Fringe in 2010, I was doing a Belt Up show called Atrium in which I wore a hot-dog costume and I totally stacked it into the audience. To make matters worse, once finally wobbling back onto my feet, I corpsed outrageously and just laughed into my fellow actors’ faces. We fell like dominoes and were all giggling for several minutes, audience included, thank god!

Who are your biggest inspirations in the industry and why?
Ooh, too many to count again! Emma Thompson, Juliette Stephenson, Glenda Jackson! I studied politics and still feel very driven by the politics of the day. All those women have had incredible careers in acting whilst also maintaining distinctly political identities, Glenda of course managing whole careers in both! That said – I’m certain I’d make a terrible politician.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?
They vary from show to show really. I usually have a dressing room playlist for each show. The one for Build a Rocket is banging! A lot of female rap artists smashing the patriarchy, definitely one of my favourites.

What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at Edinburgh Fringe?
I’ve booked for Akram Khan at the EIF and can recommend Providence at Assembly, Orpheus and Flight at Summerhall, The Courtroom at Pleasance – and check out any show from the amazing Joanne Hartstone! Everything else I’m going to suss on the ground when I get there 🙂

Why do you think people should come and see your show over the thousands of others on at the Fringe?
Well I recommend they see lots of different shows but I suppose I’d say this is some of the best new writing I’ve come across: Christopher York is a talent to watch, so you can say you were there at the beginning!


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