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Both captivating and entertaining, this morality play adapted from the book by Malorie Blackman is a stark reminder that as human beings we seem incapable of learning from history.
Whether it be the Montagues and the Capulets, the Campbell Clan and the MacDonalds, Brexiters and Remainers, Country Music Fans and Heavy Metal Rockers, we humans seem genetically wired to be afraid of even minor differences and want to control or destroy that which we either don’t like or don’t understand.
Then along comes that stupid, indefinable, indescribable thing called love and screws up all of our prejudices.
The play, adapted by Sabrina Mahfouz, opens with the birth of a child, Persephone – a hope, a beacon of light. Sephy (Heather Agyepong), when we meet her as a young teenager seems normal enough. Her friend Callum (Billy Harris) a typical awkward teenage boy is completely unaware of the affect he has on Sephy. She kisses him and, in that moment, just as with Eve and the apple, a line is crossed and they are, unbeknownst to themselves, doomed. They have lost their innocence.
Take this angst-ridden love story and mix in rebellious, dysfunctional families, an alcoholic mother, a misguided father, an embryonic terrorist, a corrupt political system and a none too squeaky-clean politician and well… perhaps that dystopian future is here already.
Whilst all of that may sound depressing, the story is engaging and the characters real and relatable. The book is a GCSE sociology text and the audience was comprised of large groups of teenagers, the same age as the principle players, which added to the atmosphere in the auditorium. There were gasps from the girls and sniggers from the boys as Sephy and Callum went beyond an innocent kiss!
The cleverly crafted set was beach or living room at the flick of a switch and ingenious direction made the cast of eight seem much bigger at times.
Noughts and Crosses is a thoroughly enjoyable theatrical experience. It is not a comfortable experience. Nor does it fall into the happy-ever-after category, holding up a mirror as it does to truths that we’d rather not listen to. Should we still believe in those old truisms of birth bringing hope, power breeding corruption and love’s ability to conquer all – sometimes?
This play ends with the birth of a child… The director in my head is humming “Where have all the flowers gone?”