Novel: Malorie Blackman
Adapted by: Sabrina Mahfouz
Director: Esther Richardson
Malorie Blackman’s iconic book Noughts & Crosses was first published in 2001, the tale of racism, segregation and the need for education and understanding will continue to be poignant and meaningful for generations to come. Transformed into a TV series and adapted for the stage twice in recent years, it is a story that needs to be told, but most importantly, listened to and learnt from.
Set in an unspecified time and place, Noughts & Crosses invites an audience into a supremacist society, where the Crosses, the dark-skinned ruling class, rein over the ‘colourless’ underclasses, known as the Noughts. Segregated and controlled by an unfair system, the story explores the impact of prejudice and racism on both sides, and the extreme lengths individuals will go to, both through legal and violent means. Out of this world of divides we meet Sephy, a Cross, daughter of politician Kamal Hadley, and her childhood friend Callum, a Nought. Can their friendship survive in a world that is so destructive?
Simon Kennedy’s design sets the scene in a suggestive way, a world of red walls, minimal furniture, which, along with Ben Cowen’s lighting design, somehow still gives the audience a sense of the spacious homes of the Crosses and the pokey living quarters of the crosses. Scenes flow into one another in an almost dreamlike way, and this design compliments the flow of the drama, projecting an environment with no specific time or place.
The ensemble, under movement director Corey Campbell, support the flow and flux of the story, the physical choreography works as an integral part of the storytelling. Integrated with the use of multimedia throughout, this makes the play feel both modern and timeless at the same time.
The quality of the acting is generally strong if a little inconsistent across the cast. Effie Ansah and James Arden as Sephy and Callum are the perfect pairing. Ansah’s performance embodies Sephy’s confidence and goodness, she is so endearing to watch. Ansah carries a good proportion of the storytelling as part of her role, and narrates Sephy’s personal journey in such a personal and personable way – a winsome performance. Similarly, Arden’s performance of Callum is both charming and complex. One can’t help empathising with Callum as he struggles to remain moral in a world that is so destructive.
It’s a great story, it’s a fine show. It’s a story that audience’s of all ages should see; but importantly bring your teenage children to see this show. If nothing else, it will definitely prompt some important conversations.
Runs until 26th November, then touring until April 2023