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Initial casting announced for Noughts and Crosses

Posted on 24 September 2018

Following the announcement of Noughts and Crosses as the first show to emerge from our new consortium project with Pilot Theatre, Derby Theatre, York Theatre Royal and Mercury Theatre Colchester, we’re thrilled to announce initial casting for the show, with Heather Agyepong and Billy Harris starring as teenagers Sephy and Callum.

An acclaimed actor, maker and visual artist, Heather Agyepong’s previous theatre credits include Girls (Talawa Theatre, High Tide & Martha Rose Wilson Prod.); So Many Reasons (Fuel Theatre & Ovalhouse Theatre) and Sankara (Next Up Talent; National Theatre Studio). Earlier this year, she was nominated for the 2018 South Bank Sky Arts Breakthrough Award.

Billy Harris’ theatre credits include Boots On The Ground (Tangled Feet) and 13 (Tobacco Factory Theatre).

Newly adapted for the stage by acclaimed poet, playwright and performer Sabrina Mahfouz, Noughts and Crosses is a captivating love story set in a volatile, racially segregated society. Based on Malorie Blackman’s award-winning YA novel, it will explore what it means to grow up in a dangerous, divided world from the perspective of two young people from very different backgrounds. The play will premiere in early 2019, ahead of a brand new BBC adaptation also due to be screened next year.

Directed by Pilot Theatre’s Artistic Director Esther Richardson (Brighton Rock), it is the first co-production between Pilot Theatre, Derby Theatre, Belgrade Theatre Coventry, Mercury Theatre, Colchester and York Theatre Royal, as part of a new partnership to develop quality theatre for younger audiences.

From 2019-2022 the consortium will commission and co-produce an original mid-scale production each year. Each production will play in all the consortium venues as well as touring nationally. Schools workshops and outreach projects, along with free digital learning resources, will be available alongside each of the productions.

Esther Richardson said: “We were amazed and honoured to receive over 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 had videos from everyone from teenagers who had never done any performing before to established actors, and many people in between.

By working in this way, we were able to consider far more actors than would have otherwise been possible. 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’

We are thrilled that Heather and Billy are taking on the roles of Sephy and Callum in Malorie’s much-loved novel and we can’t wait to work with both of them.”

Author Malorie Blackman has written over 60 books for children and young adults, including the Noughts & Crosses series, Thief and most recently her science fiction thriller Chasing the Stars. Her work has also been adapted for TV with the 6-part adaptation of Pig-Heart Boy winning a BAFTA and Noughts and Crosses currently in production for the BBC. In 2005, Malorie was honoured the Eleanor Farjeon Award in recognition of her distinguished contribution to the world of children’s books, in 2008 she received an OBE for her services to children’s literature and, between 2013 and 2015, she was the Children’s Laureate. Malorie is currently writing for the new Doctor Who series on BBC One and the fifth novel in her Noughts & Crosses sequence, Crossfire, will be published by Penguin Random House Children’s in summer 2019.

Malorie Blackman said: “I’m thrilled that Noughts & Crosses is being adapted for the stage by Sabrina and produced by Pilot Theatre and a talented consortium of theatre makers whose aim it is to develop theatre for younger audiences.”

Adapter Sabrina Mahfouz is a British Egyptian poet, playwright, performer and writer from South London, England. Her recent plays have included Offside (co-written with Hollie McNish) and With a little bit of luck (Paines Plough). Her published work includes poetry, plays and contributions to several anthologies.

Sabrina Mahfouz said: “As a young adult, Noughts & Crosses showed me the power storytelling can have in highlighting injustice in the world, so it is a complete honour to now be adapting the legendary Malorie Blackman’s words for the stage, alongside the bold vision of Pilot Theatre and partners.’

Noughts & Crosses runs at the Belgrade Theatre 26-30 March 2019 with tickets available to book now. Further casting will be announced soon.