A gloomy and chilling adaptation of Malorie Blackman’s acclaimed novel visited the Lowry Theatre stage this weekend.

Noughts and Crosses is better known as a classroom favourite for teens; however, this version that has toured the UK since February had a more mature tone.

The play, adapted by British writer Sabrina Mahfouz, presents an ironic shift in power between black and white people. The 21st Century dystopian play stages the white characters (Noughts) as former slaves and at the bottom of the social hierarchy, whereas the black characters (Crosses) are wealthier and more valued within society.

The audience sees the growing friendship turn into a romance between protagonists, Persephone (Sephy) Hadley played by Heather Agyepong and Callum McGregor played by Billy Harris. However, as Sephy is a Cross and Callum is a Nought, tensions on stage grow between them as each scene appears to become bleaker than the last.

Both characters seem to understand that their forbidden romance is a problem that cannot be solved easily and leads them to present some powerful and memorable monologues to make sense of it all.

A dull red and black background covered the stage and was a subtle yet commendable touch as it mirrored the battle between love and hate that was ever present during the performance.

There is, however, a level of comic relief despite this. As Sephy and Callum’s relationship develops in their early teenage years, their childlike excitement of a potential romance becomes humorous.

Despite the small cast, each character always spoke with intent and purpose. Often during powerful scenes was where the females ruled the stage such as Sephy’s mother, played by Doreene Blackstock and Callum’s mother played by Lisa Howard. Both women grieve the loss of their marriages, with one self-medicating using alcohol and another through depression.

Sabrina Mahfouz touches on several themes that are prevalent within the novel including racism, mental health, politics and of course love. To bind these all in a two-hour play was a great effort and did justice to the 2001 novel.

Noughts and Crosses the play is touring the UK until May 2019. Tickets can be found here.


Image credit: The Lowry

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