James Arden stars in the stage adaptation by Sabrina Mahfouz of Noughts & Crosses, Malorie Blackman’s gripping story of first love in a dangerous, alternate world where racism divides society.
Malorie Blackman’s first book in the Noughts & Crosses series for young adults won the Red House Children’s Book Award and the Fantastic Fiction Award among other accolades. Two BBC series of Noughts & Crosses were screened in 2019 & 2022.
Noughts & Crosses first toured in 2019 as the first co-production between Pilot Theatre, Derby Theatre, Belgrade Theatre Coventry, Mercury Theatre, Colchester, and York Theatre Royal who in 2018 formed a new partnership to develop, produce and present theatre for younger audiences. The Pilot Theatre production was seen by over 30,000 people on tour with 40 % of the audience being aged under twenty. It went on to win Pilot Theatre the award for excellence in Touring at the 2019 UK Theatre Awards.
The production will open at York Theatre Royal from 16-24 September and then tour till 1 April 2023. Full tour details can be found here.
You’re starring in the new tour of Noughts & Crosses, how would you describe the play?
It’s a beautiful love story that points a stern finger at very relevant and sometimes troubling parallels within our own society. It’s gritty and ugly, in all the best ways.
What is it about Sabrina Mahfouz’s adaptation of Malorie Blackman’s book that works so well on stage?
Sabrina has managed to make every scene feel so deep and punchy. She tells the story in a way that is full of life, honouring the book and allowing it the pace it requires to be on stage. It’s rare to play with writing that is consistently tangible, and I think that’s why we’ve loved getting stuck into it so much during rehearsals.
And you’re playing the role of Callum, what do you like most about this character?
Callum has all the ingredients to be a great man. He’s kind, compassionate, gentle and driven, but the world around him is so heavy, violent and unflinching. He is never allowed to be comfortable, for whatever reason, and that leads to the most exhilarating inner turmoil and conflicts. He’s a gift of a part!
This will be your first time in a leading role, what are you most excited about?
The roses, standing ovations and autographs. All jokes aside, I’m just so grateful to be working with a company of actors who love to play and explore great writing. The entire ensemble has created some real electricity in the rehearsal room since day 1, and that leaves me feeling so incredibly lucky and excited.
You’ll be working with some cast from the previous run, what advice have they given you?
Relax into it. “It’s only play pretend, darling”
What would you say to anyone thinking of booking to see Noughts & Crosses?
Prepare to explore things about yourself and the world you live in. The ugly bits and all. This play presents itself unapologetically, and it’s a story that everyone can relate to. You’ll leave the theatre after having something stirred within you, so come ready. Also, maybe a pack of tissues wouldn’t go amiss.
Noughts and Crosses, starring James Arden, opens at York Theatre Royal from 16-24 September and then tours till 1 April 2023. For info visit https://www.pilot-theatre.com/present-work/noughts-crosses/about-the-show