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: