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Theatres unite for world premiere of Crongton Knights

DRIVING FORCE: Alex Wheatle, Emteaz Hussain, Corey Campbell and Esther Richardson have teamed up again after already proving to be a highly successful combination

FOLLOWING THE sell-out success of this year’s critically acclaimed adaptation of Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses, the Belgrade Theatre and Pilot Theatre have once again teamed up with Derby Theatre and York Theatre Royal to present the world stage premiere of Crongton Knights.

Based on Alex Wheatle’s Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize-winning young adult novel, this new adaptation by Emteaz Hussain will open at the Belgrade Theatre in February 2020 ahead of a UK tour, and will be the second of four co-productions to be developed through a new consortium project, set up by the Belgrade Theatre, Pilot Theatre, Derby Theatre, York Theatre Royal and the Mercury Theatre Colchester to create theatre for younger audiences.

The show will open at the Belgrade Theatre between February 8 and 22, 2020, co-directed by Pilot Theatre artistic director Esther Richardson (director of Noughts and Crosses) and Strictly Arts artistic director Corey Campbell (behind the award-winning drama Freeman), who has recently been announced as one of three creative leads who will take over the Belgrade’s home-produced programme for Coventry’s year as City of Culture in 2021.

First published in 2017, Crongton Knights tells the story of a group of teenagers living in a fictionalised version of South London, where territorial lines are dangerous to cross.

Born in London to Jamaican parents, Wheatle’s first book, Brixton Rock (1999), told the story of a 16-year old boy of mixed race in 1980s Brixton. The novel was subsequently adapted for the stage and performed at the Young Vic in 2010.

Its sequel, Brenton Brown, was published in 2011. His other novels include East of Acre Lane (2001), which won a London Arts Board New Writers Award.

A prequel, Island Songs, set in Jamaica, was published in 2005, followed by a sequel, Dirty South, in 2008.

In 2010, he wrote and toured the one-man autobiographical performance, Uprising. His play, Shame & Scandal, had its debut at the Albany Theatre, Deptford in October 2015. He was awarded an MBE for services to literature in 2008.

Wheatle said: “I am very proud that Pilot Theatre are adapting my novel, Crongton Knights, for the stage. It’s a modern quest story where on their journey, the young, diverse lead characters have to confront debt, poverty, blackmail, loss, fear, the trauma of a flight from a foreign land and the omnipresent threat of gangland violence.

“The dialogue I created for this award-winning novel deserves a platform and I for one can’t wait to see the characters that have lived in my head for a number of years, leap out of my mind and onto a stage near you.”

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