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Five produce new version of Blackman novel

Published: 26 September 2018

Five theatres, who have formed a partnership to develop shows for younger audiences, are to co-produce a new adaptation by Sabrina Mahfouz of Malorie Blackman’s young adult novel Noughts and Crosses.

It will be the first collaboration between Pilot Theatre, Derby Theatre, Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre, Colchester’s Mercury Theatre and York Theatre Royal.

Told from the perspectives of two teenagers, Noughts and Crosses is a “captivating love story set in a volatile, racially segregated society and explores the powerful themes of love, revolution and what it means to grow up in a divided world”.

Mahfouz’s adaptation is based on Blackman’s first book in the Noughts and Crosses series for young adults which won the Red House Children’s Book Award and the Fantastic Fiction Award, among other accolades.

The cast will be led by Heather Agyepong and Billy Harris who play the roles of Sephy and Callum. Agyepong played Haleema in Theresa Ikoko’s Girls, a Talawa Theatre, High Tide and Martha Rose Wilson production in 2017. She was nominated for the 2018 South Bank Sky Arts breakthrough award.

Pilot Theatre’s artistic director Esther Richardson directs. She said, “we were amazed and honoured to receive more than 400 audition videos from those who wanted to put themselves forward for the roles of Sephy and Callum. It was like receiving a 33-hour-long digital love letter to the original book.

“We wanted to find fresh talent and authenticity and we’ve been brought into contact with some extraordinary young actors who were completely unknown to us.”

Mahfouz said about her new adaptation, “as a young adult, Noughts and Crosses showed me the power storytelling can have in highlighting injustice in the world, so it’s a complete honour to be adapting the legendary Malorie Blackman's words for the stage.”

Noughts and Crosses will open at Derby Theatre from 1 until 16 February 2019 and will then tour to Theatr Clwyd Mold, The Lowry Salford, Mercury Theatre Colchester, Bristol Old Vic, Brighton Theatre Royal, Belgrade Theatre Coventry, York Theatre Royal, Theatre Royal Stratford East and Northern Stage until 11 May.

Steve Orme