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Reviewed: Noughts and Crosses at Curve

A story that needs telling has recently been told at Curve.

Effie Ansah as Sephy and James Arden as Callum photo by Robert Day

Written by Malorie Blackman, Noughts and Crosses is a novel that has become a cult classic to many. Having recently been turned into a TV series for the BBC, Noughts & Crosses was first adapted for the stage by Sabrina Mahfouz.


Blackman was originally advised not to write this story, but director of the stage adaptations Esther Richardson is thankful the story was told which is clear to see from the passion behind this production.


The show takes us on a journey through a racist world narrated by the leading duo Sephy and Callum. This is one of those stories that needs no introduction as it’s one we should all discover ourselves, however it’s clear to see why the core message behind the novel is still being adapted, praised and even learnt as part of the drama syllabus. Although addressing themes of racism in an opposite reflection to reality, it’s not too hard to work out that sadly, we still live in a reality not to dissimilar to Calum and Sephys.

Daniel Copeland as Ryan and James Arden as Callum photo by Robert Day

For this reason, the drama behind the cast’s performances left the studio theatre at Curve in high applause.


Albeit a small cast, everyone reflected these strong messages surrounding terrorism and racism effortlessly. Aside from Callum and Sephy, the remaining cast played multiple characters throughout the performance, but it never faulted the message being told. The only way you could tell is the recognition of hair and makeup to the eagle-eyed viewers.


Effie Ansah (Sephy) and James Arden (Callum) naturally shone as our leads, and through well scripted dialogue the took us on an emotional rollercoaster. There was poetry within their words and symmetry between scenes that are so clever in the way in which these characters portray a story that’s so similar to what we know yet so different to what we see.


What I particularly loved about this theme was that it could be set at any time. Some moments felt modernised and at times futuristic, but at other moments we could have been seeing recounts of a time past. A lot of this was down to the exceptional set design by Simon Kenny and the production team. Using block screens with a TV like affect made the moments of high emotion even more powerful.

The company of Noughts & Crosses photo by Robert Day

I did personally think that act one dragged ever so slightly, but this might have been from my prior knowledge to the story. I first met Calum and Sephy back in high school having seen elder year groups perform the story. I then started reading the novel as one of my lockdown I-want-to-start-reading-more-but-know-I-won’t-finish-this book’s, which I predictably at no fault to the story put down half way through. The first act felt familiar for this reason but act two left no surprises and shocked me into remembering just how this story ends.


At the end of the interval, an unaware nearby audience member naively uttered: “I hope they have a happy ending!” - I don’t think you need to know anything about this story before watching, however this reinforced to me just how naïve we can be as viewers and humans when it comes to serious topics like these.


★★★★


Noughts and Crosses ended its tour here in Leicester at Curve Theatre on April 1, but this story is loved for a reason and I’m sure it will certainly tour again or be performed by local theatre groups in the near future.

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