Noughts and Crosses

This stylish yet bleak dramatisation of Malorie Blackman’s novel for young adults is captivating but uncomfortable from start to finish. The beautifully conceived and executed set works because of it’s simplicity and carefully crafted lighting, the stark use of a limited colour palette helps to emphasise the racial tensions at the heart of the story and in doing all of this the work is both uncluttered and at the same filled with detail. But that detail is left to the well crafted script and of course an excellent cast.

The use of physical theatre techniques is at times well placed but on occasion seems superfluous, the depiction of a bombing is beautifully choreographed but at other times the movement feels unnecessary in a piece that already weighty and long.

All this is so good, I enjoyed it, enjoyed the craft and the performances but… Well I do have a but, the piece is at times rather shouty and the message comes over as rather preachy. I don’t object to the message in any way, it is an important message, one that needs to be told for certain and one that never needs to be forgotten. And maybe in taking the book off the printed page and staging it renders it far more, dare I say it, black and white.

That said this version of the book is far more impactful than the TV version which seemed to take the heart out of the book and turn it into a bog standard TV crime drama.

The cast are throughout first class and deliver the beautifully written script with real conviction and that sense of turning things on their heads plays out well.

I did feel though that I would have liked to see the two sons, Callum and Ryan, swap roles. Callum who is the gentler character at the start of the story is beautifully played by James Arden. Jude, the tougher older brother is played equally well by Nathaniel McKloskey. Whilst both actors are good looking Arden has the gentler features and McKloskey a more classically masculine look and dare I say it one so often selected by casting directors seeking tough guys. In casting terms if felt rather predictable but in no way did it affect two excellent performances and this is purely a personal quibble.

Effie Ansah’s portrayal of Sephy is beautifully observed and nuanced, a gentle innocence growing into knowing womanhood and Amie Buhari as Jasmine, the mother, is equally well portrayed never once stumbling into the cliches of playing drunk, a fine and restrained performance.

This is an important piece of work, an excellent production and one that had it’s young school age audience captivated in an unusual silence throughout.

Andrew Kay

21 February

Theatre Royal Brighton

Rating: ★★★★☆

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