Review: Noughts and Crosses at The Lowry is “thrilling, beautiful and as relevant as ever”

Pilot Theatre’s production of Noughts and Crosses based on the novel by Malorie Blackman has been causing a stir at The Lowry Theatre
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This book has become a firm favourite with students all over the UK and is often featured in their school /college Six Book Challenge, to encourage young people to read more.

With a target audience, primed and ready to relive their favourite parts of this beloved Dystopian novel, Pilot could easily tread water and offer something very predictable and pedestrian, whilst remaining loyal to the text.

Having read the book though, I can assure you that the play itself is absolutely thrilling. Love, hate, despair, these feelings and many more are felt consistently throughout, and every moment keeps you hooked like bait on a line.

I found the novel hard to put down so I was intrigued to see how it would play out on stage, as I had my doubts about if it would have the same effect on me. But it completely exceeds your expectations and had not just me, but the whole theatre on the edge of our seats. With every passing moment you feel more immersed in the action that is taking place.

The story follows two people, and involves two families and two races, all of which are intertwined with one another. The two main characters of the show are Sephy  (Effie Ansah) Callum (James Arden) and the theme of forbidden love rears it’s ugly and beautiful head. This love story also reveals inequality between two races, or as they call it Noughts and Crosses.

The setting may be dystopian but it still explores many issues we still face today, thus having a more emotional effect on the audience, as it is deeply relatable to young audiences, whatever their background.

There is much importance on why subjects such as racism, discrimination and prejudice are discussed openly, and especially throughout schools. We know from teachers around the UK that this has massively inspired many young people across England and has opened the eyes of many to the real life challenges many people still face. Pilot’s production of Noughts and Crosses means that these conversations can continue. It can also encourage them to challenge these sorts of issues, no matter where they may encounter them.

There is still great division in the UK, even as we enter 2023 it will still follow us; however, I admire the fact that everything about this production highlights all these issues, and that without change, everything will just continue to get worse for not just our generation; but our next generations to come. It is a stark warning but it also offers hope, if we keep talking and have the dialogue, things can only get better.

The set design is ingenious as instead of a series of rooms, they used abstract objects and miniature furniture to portray the location in which the scene was taking place. This was confusing at times but the scene changes were carried out with precision and timed to perfection, so much credit is due to the whole cast as they all participated.

Writer Sarah Mahfouz really does an incredible job  as she remains loyal to the text, whilst adding new elements and she includes many different scenarios to keep the audience entertained. The cast themselves: Effie Ansah and James Arden are very strong and convincing leads and they keep you interested, as this beautiful book comes to life. The supporting cast members are also excellent and this leads to a gripping and illuminating production.

Catch it if you can!

Noughts and Crosses is at the Lowry until 21st January and can be booked here. It also tours to the Oldham Coliseum from 14th March until 18th March and you can book your tickets here.

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