Press Review: Noughts & Crosses at The Alexandra Theatre

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Gripping and thought-provoking

Sephy and Callum sit together on a beach. They are in love. It is forbidden. Sephy is a Cross and Callum is a Nought. Between Noughts and Crosses there are racial and social divides. A segregated society teeters on a volatile knife edge. As violence breaks out, Sephy and Callum draw closer, but this is a romance that will lead them into terrible danger…

Based on the first book in Malorie Blackman’s Noughts & Crosses series, directed by Esther Richardson and adapted by Sabrina Mahfouz, Noughts & Crosses offers a love story (very loosely based on Romeo & Juliet) set in an reimagined society. The Crosses – all people of colour – hold the power, while the Noughts – the white population – are at the mercy of the discriminatory rules and restrictions placed upon them. Sephy (Effie Ansah), a Cross, is the daughter of the Home Secretary Kamal Hadley (Chris Jack) and lives a life of privilege Her childhood friend Callum, a Nought, has won a place at her prestigious school for Crosses, causing a violent series of protests and backlash. Their developing romance is strictly forbidden, and both sides face huge barriers and prejudice while trying to simultaneously be together while finding their own paths. 

It’s an intense, shocking and highly thought-provoking experience, covering themes of racism, alcohol abuse, capital punishment, violence and domestic violence, with references to sexual violence, and one of the best plays I have ever seen.

The performances from the cast of ten were nothing short of sensational. Effie Ansah and James Arden gave highly impressive leading role debuts as the two leads – both conveying their individual struggles placed on then by the society around them, with incredible chemistry. So intense was their chemistry, in fact, that their eventual union as a couple and the aftermath provoked multiple audible gasps and cheers from an audience who were clearly invested in the characters and their journeys. 

The supporting cast were equally impressive. We see the challenges faced by Sephy’s parents Kamal and Jasmine (Amie Buhari) in an unhappy marriage as Kamal focuses on his job and Jasmine turns to alcohol for comfort, and by Callum’s parents Ryan (Daniel Copeland) and Meggie (Emma Keele) who are increasingly distanced when Ryan joins the a white freedom party – the Liberation Militia. We also see the pressure that both Sephy and Callum are placed under from their siblings – Minerva (Steph Asamoah) and Jude (Nathanial McCloskey), also a member of the Liberation Militia, to stick to and stand up for their own communities. 

The set, lighting and sound is equally as effective as the plot. With four moving tiled panels and sparse props, digital projections and strobe lighting, the bleak atmosphere was palpable. Everything was expertly timed and slick, with the cast themselves changing the set and props as they moved around.

Beautifully done, this is a rather lengthy play at just over 2 hours 10 minutes. At times it makes for an uncomfortable watch, and this is what makes it brilliant. An absolute must-see. 

Noughts & Crosses will be on stage at The Alexandra Theatre from Tuesday 19th November until Saturday 19th November. Purchase your tickets here.