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Alex Wheatle's Crongton Knights makes its stage premiere in Coventry

Posted on 19 June 2019

Following the sell-out success of our acclaimed co-production of Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses this year, we’re thrilled to be teaming up again with Pilot Theatre, Derby Theatre and York Theatre Royal to present the world stage premiere of Alex Wheatle’s Crongton Knights.

Adapted for the stage by Emteaz Hussain, the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize-winning book tells the story of a group of six friends living on the Crongton Estate. Life isn’t easy there, and when the magnificent six set out to help a friend in trouble, much larger problems come their way.

Although, with the help of a few good friends nothing is impossible, and lessons learned the hard way are ones you’ll never forget. That’s when a crew becomes a family.

Opening at the Belgrade Theatre 8-22 February before embarking on a national tour until May, the show will be co-directed by Pilot Theatre Artistic Director Esther Richardson ( Noughts & Crosses, Brighton Rock ) and our newly announced Creative Lead for 2021, Corey Campbell (Artistic Director of Strictly Arts Theatre Company )

Crongton Knights will be the second of four co-productions between Pilot Theatre, Derby Theatre, Belgrade Theatre Coventry and York Theatre Royal, who last year formed – with the Mercury Theatre Colchester – a new partnership to develop 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. The consortium’s first production, Noughts & Crosses, was seen by over 30,000 people on tour with 40% of the audience being aged under 20.

Oddsocks A Midsummer Night's Dream

Born in London to Jamaican parents, Alex 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.

Wheatle’s 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 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.

Alex 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.”

Emteaz Hussain is a playwright and performance poet. Her acclaimed first play, Sweet Cider, was produced by Tamasha Theatre Company at the Arcola Theatre in 2008 and was published in 2013 in the anthology Plays for Today by Women by Aurora Metro Books. Her other theatre credits include Blood (Tamasha Theatre Company – tour), Outsiders (Pilot Theatre – tour). Emteaz is currently under commission by the Royal Court Theatre to write a play about the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal, titled Trace. As a performance poet she has performed nationally and internationally and has toured with Transglobal Underground, Fundamental, Hustlers HC and as a backing poet with the Benjamin Zephaniah band.

Emteaz Hussain said: “On my first reading of Crongton Knights, I immediately recognised the intricate, multicultural, working class world that Alex Wheatle had vividly created. The unflinching brutality tempered by bighearted grace and the dignity afforded to the characters that I related to. I loved how these disparate young people struggled to bond in order to overcome such insurmountable obstacles in their young lives, and I jumped at the chance to adapt this for stage.”

The cast and creative team will be announced later in the year.

Schools workshops and outreach projects, along with free digital learning resources, will be available alongside the national tour.

Crongton Knights will open at Belgrade Theatre Coventry from 8-22 February 2020 and will then tour to York Theatre Royal (25-29 February), The Lowry Salford (10-14 March) and Derby Theatre (17-21 March). Other tour dates will be announced later in the year.