Noughts And Crosses – Compelling And Disturbing

Malorie Blackman’s original novel Noughts and Crosses is one of the icons of 21st Century literature. It offers an alternative present where the Noughts (white population) are the downtrodden lesser people, ruled by the Crosses (dark skinned) who colonised them when they overtook Europe, and now conspire to keep their status quo intact through a rule of oppression, fear and discrimination based on skin colour. In this present we have two young people, a nought man Callum, who has grown up alongside a cross girl called Sephy. First they are best friends, but as they grow old this then turns to love, a dangerous thing in a divided, unjust society. The situation is made even worse as Sephy’s father is one of the most important men in the government, Kamal Hadley, and Callum’s family become progressively more radicalised following the death of their daughter Lynnette. Callum and Sephy are idealistic and truly love each other, but is this really enough in a world so divided? Noughts and Crosses opened at Birmingham’s Alexandra Theatre for a weeks run last night, and was greeted by a standing ovation from an audience who were totally absorbed in a stunning piece of theatre.

The love story is the true heart of Noughts and Crosses, with shades of Romeo and Juliet, and young actors playing the roles Effie Ansah and James Arden, truly deliver, from their first chaste kiss on the beach, to the realms of their complicated relationship and its devastating end. They are supported by a brilliant ensemble cast which includes Amie Buhari as Sephy’s mother Jasmine, lost in a haze of drink and heartbreak, Chris Jack as the treacherous Kamal, a man who betrays everyone, including his own family (a politician if ever there was one) and the tragic Ryan, Callum’s father, who loses his peaceful nature when he loses his daughter, and sacrifices himself for the cause he believes in.

The novel has been beautifully adapted for the stage by Sabrina Mahfouz, and each scene is taut and often filled with tension. The starkness of the set works beautifully, when the stage is set for an execution it is shocking, totally unsettling, and the whole feeling is of watching something important, if not always easy to see.

Noughts and Crosses is an unsettling, totally absorbing masterpiece. One that totally needs to be seen.

Noughts and Crosses

 Wed 16 Nov – Sat 19 Nov 22


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