Review: Noughts and Crosses at Rose Theatre was as relevant as ever

The Pilot Theatre’s production of Noughts and Crosses remains relatable, despite the first book being published over two decades ago in 2001.

Malorie Blackman’s books which include Noughts and Crosses are still a common read for many in the UK, and we have seen them adapted first as a BBC series and now as a stage show.

Currently on its second tour of the UK, this is a must see performance about an alternative world where the black community (Crosses) are in power and the white community (Noughts) are mainly segregated and looked down upon.

The story follows Sephy (A Cross, played by Effie Ansah) and Callum (A Nought, portrayed by James Arden) as they navigate a twisted Dystopian society, figuring out how they can be together when their worlds couldn’t be more opposite.

The play focused not only the big issues facing segregation and race, but also the smaller details that are sometimes overlooked.

The Romeo and Juliet-style love story covered day to day issues of race; from violent acts of rebellion as the only means for change, all the way to the Noughts not having access to a bandage the same colour as their skin.

Ansah and Arden poured their emotions into the play in such a way that you forgot it was a piece of theatre rather than real life. It was a refreshing watch knowing finer micro-aggressions were being acknowledged.

Arden portrayed turning to violence as a last resort to make a change alongside Emma Keele’s depiction of the light which goes out in a mother as she is faced with overwhelming loss and heartbreak.

The Pilot Theatre production is one which felt relatable irrespective of race or background. The simplistic set left the audience on the edge of their seats, with dark lighting and inner dialogues used by characters aiming to deal with turmoil while facing continuous conflict.

It was an emotive performance, with each character highlighting just how unbelievable segregation is when linked to the colour of your skin, your religion or any other factors which have a divisive history.

Director Esther Richardson delivered a shocking ending which left the audience in silence. As Callum Sadly met an unfair death, the stage went dark, and we were left with Sephy’s sobs. It was impossible to hold back tears. However, the ending was also extremely powerful, portraying beautifully the reality of a segregated society without any sugar-coating or handing us the ending that we wanted.

The fight of the characters, both individually and as a collective, is summarised by a quote which I hope continues to ring true for years to come:

“A world with no more prejudice or discrimination. Just a fair playing field.”

Noughts and Crosses is currently on tour around England, with its performance in the Rose Theatre just finishing as it ran in Kingston from January 31 to February 11 and the tour continues until March.

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