Reviewed by Joanne Hughes
Compelling and thought-provoking – a stunning piece of theatre, perfectly executed.
This play is an adaptation of the acclaimed writer Malorie Blackman’s ground-breaking political novel, Noughts and Crosses, which flips society’s racial divide. It tells the story of two children, Persephone (Sephy) – a black, wealthy Cross, who is the daughter of the Deputy Prime Minister, and Callum – a white, under-privileged Nought, who have been friends throughout their childhood. During their earlier years, their friendship was unmarred by the political issues surrounding them, but as they grow older, a realisation of the complexity of life dawns on them as they are forced to deal with the issues of race, class and mental health. Whilst their bonds strengthen and romance blossoms, the world around them becomes more segregated, and they struggle to stay together.
From the opening scenes, it is obvious as to the talents of the cast; Billy Harris provides a superb performance, taking Callum from a decent teenager, determined to make the most of his limited opportunities, and striving to make his life, and the lives of those around him, better, to becoming so disenchanted with the way things are, that he joins the resistance movement in a bid to change the world, whilst also seeking revenge against those who have caused him pain. Harris’ performance is bold, strong, and touching – the scenes in which he communicates with his sister Lynette, who has mental illness, are tender and moving.
Heather Aygepong is outstanding as Sephy, guiding us through her journey from an awkward, girly teenager, enthusiastic and full of life, through becoming so numb about her family and life that she takes to drinking alcohol, to then growing into a mature, young woman, fighting for what she believes in, and for her love for Callum. Aygepong plays this challenging role with confidence and full of emotion, especially in the more tender moments, as well as the more ‘comedic’ scenes such as their first kiss, and the monologue after their sensitively executed sexual liaison.
The other six cast members fulfil their main roles of family members, alongside those of several characters during the production. Jack Condon and Lisa Howard’s portrayals of Callum’s mother and father are emotional, whilst Doreene Blackstock delivers a superb representation of a woman caged by her role as a wife of a prominent politician, turning to alcohol as a means of escape. This is a strong cast who convey their characters with a powerful mix of seriousness and sentiment.
The combination of narrative and conversation dialogue is well-balanced, and the creative use of choreographed physical theatre to represent the swirling chaos of violence, as well as set changes, is ingenious – that of the bomb scene invokes terror and fear, leaving you dumb-struck at its power. Simon Kenny’s simple, inventive set design, with three red walls which morph from walls, to windows, to cupboards enhances the flow and feeling of the play; whilst the video news-bulletins effectively aid the telling of the story, without becoming intrusive.
The final scene being a repetition of the opening scene, leaves you with the understanding of the vicious cycle of this form of political society, together with the belief and wish that each new birth of a child truly does brings hope. Although aimed at a young teenage audience, this play will resonate with all who question the inequality of today’s society and want to see change.
Currently on show at the Royal Theatre, Brighton, Noughts and Crosses is an expertly staged, sensitive story addressing some of the complex challenges of today’s world.
This regency style theatre, is a located in the centre of Brighton with lots of parking and eateries nearby. Its beautiful auditorium adds that touch of intimacy with the cast, not found in modern theatres’, and the space enables superior acoustics.
An engaging, thought-provoking piece of theatre not to be missed.
Tickets cost from £13 to £41.90 (plus £3.65 transaction fee).
Noughts and Crosses is at the Theatre Royal in Brighton from 19-23 March 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/brighton or call the box office on 0844 871 7650.
Theatre Royal, New Road, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 1SD | 0844 871 7650