Noughts and Crosses
Theatre Royal Brighton & UK Tour
Reviewed – 19th March 2019
“misfires terribly, covering too many issues without any real cohesion and substance”
The idea of Noughts and Crosses appears a simple one. The tables have turned and the power in the world rests with the black population, not the white. We have the Crosses that epitomises power, wealth and political dominance and then the Noughts, second class citizens who are discriminated against because of their beliefs and are banned from interaction with the Crosses.
The story of Noughts and Crosses follows two teens from opposing sides of society, Sephy (Heather Agyepong), a Cross and Callum (Billy Harris), a Nought. We start by seeing their childhood innocence but that soon shifts onto much darker tones.
Throughout the piece we identify the rest of the cast (Doreene Blackstock, Jack Condon, Daniel Copeland, Lisa Howard, Chris Jack and Kimisha Lewis) jumping between characters. From parents of the two teens to members of rebellious militia groups amongst others. This could be a real strength of the piece but however falls flat with no real clear distinction vocally from the actors to differentiate between the roles which is ultimately confusing for the audience.
In the Noughts and Crosses novel series Malorie Blackman understands who we are as people better than most. The characters she’s created, in Sephy and Callum particularly, have depth but are poorly transitioned onto stage by adapter Sabrina Mahfouz. I do sympathise with Mahfouz however as it is an ambitious effort to translate all the themes from the first two novels, which Noughts and Crosses is based on, into just two hours. Above all I feel there is a clear generation gap in the writing, condescending in its approach to youth issues. The use of phrases such as ‘Flipping Sod’ makes us cringe rather than connect.
The saving grace in this production however comes from the design team, in that of Josh Drualas Pharo (Lighting) Arun Ghosh (Music), Xana (Sound), Adam McCready (Sound Engineer) Ian William Galloway (Video) and Simon Kerry (Design). The arrangement echoes The Curious Incident of The Dog In The Night Time, a sparse stage with hidden compartments and doors. The attractive set helps the transitioning of scenes seem effortless.
Overall Noughts and Crosses misfires terribly, covering too many issues without any real cohesion and substance. Rape, physical abuse, teenage pregnancy and radicalisation are all pertinent issues however the end result is chaotic and clumsy; a condescending scattergun of the analysis of youth and love.
Reviewed by Nathan Collins
Photography by Robert Day
Noughts and Crosses
Theatre Royal Brighton until 23rd March
then UK Tour continues
Previously reviewed at this venue:
by James Phillips
A YEAR-LONG EPIC
• PART ONE: FROM THE SEA – A SHORT FILM PROLOGUE RELEASED ONLINE AND SCREENED ACROSS HULL IN AN AIRSTREAM CARAVAN
• PART TWO: ABUNDANCE – A LIVE PLAY TO BE PERFORMED 11-15 APRIL IN VICTORIA DOCK
• PART THREE: TO THE SEA – A PLAY TO BE BROADCAST ON BBC TELEVISION IN SUMMER 2017
• PART FOUR: NEW WORLD – A LIVE PLAY TO BE PERFORMED IN VICTORIA DOCK IN OCTOBER 2017
Flood is the story of what happened when the world was destroyed and how the people who lived tried to make it new again.
Flood is an extraordinary year-long epic commissioned for Hull 2017 that will be told online, live in Hull and on BBC television. It is created by the ground-breaking Leeds-based theatre company Slung Low, directed by artistic director Alan Lane and written by award-winning playwright James Phillips.
One day it starts to rain and no-one knows why. And it doesn’t stop. Far out on the North Sea a fisherman raises a girl in his net, miraculously alive from the deep sea. Is she one of the migrants now washing up on English shores? Or someone sent for some higher purpose?
Slung Low make adventures for audiences outside conventional theatre spaces, each with a powerful, moving story at its heart. Flood is their most ambitious and experimental project to date; mixing live performance, special effects, film and digital elements to tell a story across an entire year. The story will be told throughout four compelling parts. People seeing it will be able to experience each section as a stand-alone piece, or follow the entire series with each part enriching and linking to every other.
Alan Lane, artistic director of Slung Low, said:
“Working with Hull 2017 has allowed us to imagine a larger, more engaging adventure for audiences than ever before. Flood is theatrically and politically the most ambitious work we’ve ever made and the chance to tell that story in Hull throughout this most thrilling year for the city is something we’re really excited about.”
Martin Green, Director Hull 2017, said:
“It is wonderful to be working with Slung Low, one of the most brilliant companies in the UK. As we launch our next two seasons Flood embarks us on an extraordinary journey, which over the next months will stimulate, challenge and ask questions of the audience in an epic piece of storytelling.”
Part One: From the Sea
A short film in which the story begins, when a girl is raised from the depths of the sea. Funded by The Space, a commissioning and development organisation that supports artists and organisations to make the most of the opportunities that digital technology and online distribution afford, it can be seen at hull2017.co.uk/flood.
Flood: From the Sea will be played at a number of locations across Hull this week in an airstream caravan. Locations of the screenings include the carparks of the ASDA stores on Hessle Road, Mount Pleasant, Beverley Road and Kingswood; St. Stephens and Beverley Road Tesco stores; Northpoint Shopping Centre and Walton Street Market.
PART ONE – FROM THE SEA
Part Two: Abundance
A live play, in which an apocalypse approaches. Flood: Abundance will be performed in Hull at Victoria Dock from 11 to 15 April, with tickets on sale now. The cast will include Sarah Louise Davies as Kathryn, Nadia Emam as Gloriana, Marc Graham as Sam, Lisa Howard as Natasha, Naveed Khan as Jack, Rani Moorthy as Johanna and Oliver Senton as Captain.
PART TWO – ABUNDANCE
11 – 15 April 2017
8pm | £10-12.50
Part Three: To the Sea
A play broadcast on BBC television, in which the English become refugees. Flood: To the Sea is part of a series of programmes for BBC Arts called Performance Live, a two-year project produced in partnership with Arts Council England and Battersea Arts Centre that will challenge a spectrum of exciting artists, producers and arts organisations to produce their own television programmes.
Flood: To The Sea is a story set in the aftermath of an apocalyptic event which has seen England engulfed by water. Flood asks a simple question: what if the fleeing masses from our TV screens and Twitter feeds, in their boats and their orange lifejackets, had English accents? Because displacement is like disease: deep down we think it only happens to other people.
PART THREE – TO THE SEA
Dates of BBC television broadcast TBA
Part Four: New World
A live play, in which the world is begun again. To be performed at Victoria Dock in October 2017, with further information to be released.
Flood’s epic adventures come to audiences in Hull and beyond with support from The Space, Arts Council England, BBC Arts and Spirit of 2012.
PART FOUR – NEW WORLD
Further details to be announced, including ticket prices and performance dates.
Flood image by Perry Curties