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:
Sex Sex Men Men
The Yard Theatre
Reviewed – 27th February 2019
“By the end, the show is joyous and silly. The set a backdrop of vibrant, glittery and soft fabrics imitates this playful atmosphere”
Sex is getting more complicated. Out of the confusion and the strangeness, Pecs have created a non-binary cabaret performed by seven very different and very brilliant drag kings. The show interrogates masculinity, exploring not only vulnerability but what it is to inhabit the kinds of strength that masculinity offers. The result is an evening of songs, dance, comedy and dramatic pieces that create a picture of male sexuality as a changing and nuanced spectrum.
Like many drag shows, Sex Sex Men Men seems to take parody as a starting point. The charismatic Cesar Jentley (Kit Griffiths) opens the show dressed in no less than a top hat and tail coat, simultaneously echoing both Ascot and cabaret. But with all good parody, there is an element of sincerity and Temi Wilkey’s Drag King Cole a lip-syncing dance that is heart-felt as well as hilarious. Victor Victorious’ (Victoria Aubrey) solo dance and strip is also nothing short of incredible.
From there, the show gets more serious and the comedy is always rooted in awareness that discussing gender also means discussing persecution, prejudice and abuse. In fact, the show does delve into the darkness of sexual abuse but there are plenty of warnings and opportunities for the audience members to leave. There are also some very explicit scenes and the audience, again, is forewarned. The show does not rely on shock value but on a desire to create an offering of performances that are about sex in all its roughness, gentleness, pleasure and pain.
What also stands out is that the show is interspersed with testimonies written by men on online forums. The stories range from confessions, confusing gay encounters to asking for advice about toxic masculine friendships. In these moments, it becomes clear that Pecs are opening the floor to more varied and frank discussions about relationships and gender. But there is a sadness in the disconnectedness of this as the stories have been put out into the void of the internet and are therefore both intensely personal and completely anonymous.
By the end, the show is joyous and silly. The set (Jasmine Swan), a backdrop of vibrant, glittery and soft fabrics imitates this playful atmosphere. The show is bold. There are some great ensemble dance numbers, there is nudity, food play, and a melancholic undressing scene to the music of Anthony and the Johnsons (which made this reviewer cry). Pecs have put gender on stage to remind us that it is a performance; a piece which we should all take seriously and have some serious fun with.
Reviewed by Tatjana Damjanovic
Photography by Holly Lucas
Sex Sex Men Men
The Yard Theatre until 16th March
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: