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Noughts and Crosses: from page to stage

Malorie Blackman's best-selling dystopian novel has been adapted for the stage in a thrilling and poignant play by Sabrina Mahfouz.

Effie Ansah as Sephy (left) and James Arden as Callum (right)
Effie Ansah as Sephy (left) and James Arden as Callum (right) © Pilot Theatre

Rating: 4/5

Blackman’s inspiration for the novel stemmed from high-profile cases, including the horrific murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993, as well as her own negative personal experiences, which made her consider the issue of racism. She used her platform to contribute positively to a difficult subject. The success of the novel of the same name in 2001 inspired a further five books in the series. They all explore different ideas but are set within an alternative world that flips the narrative on race. But would Mahfouz be able to take this subject matter and translate it from the page to the stage with great results?

Set in an alternative, dystopian Britain where slavery had been abolished for some time, but segregation, similar to the Jim Crow Laws, continues to operate to keep the Crosses (dark-skinned people) in control of the Noughts (lighter-skinned people). The plot fuses together stark representations of segregation, insurrection and political violence that have huge relevance to today’s society.

Condensing this popular full-length novel into 140 minutes respectively comes with an expectation. The result is a breathtaking production and will make you immediately want to read the best-selling novel (if you haven’t already, of course).

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