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REVIEW: A Song for Ella Grey at Newcastle Northern Stage

A Song for Ella Grey

Newcastle Northern Stage

Until Thursday 15 February 2024 

David Almond's 2014 teen novel based on the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice is enjoying its second adaptation at Northern Stage. The 2024 version, under direction of Esther Richardson and with a script from Zoe Cooper is a very different beast to the single handed production from 2017.

Grace Long as Ella Grey 

This is, in part a teen coming of age tale. We are told from the off, that Claire (Olivia Onyehara) will survive the event that will take the life of her close friend Ella Grey (Grace Long). After that revelation the audience find out how the tragedy occurred during act one and then witness the teens trying to reconcile the events in act two. The point that is quickly apparent is that this is a very theatrical performance through the lens of a group of sixth formers who are about to take their A levels and head off to university.

Amonik Melaco as Sam

The group are a group of friends who see Ella as a unifying member. In addition to Claire we have Angeline (Beth Crame), Jay (Jonathan Iceton) and Sam (Amonik Melaco). Each one works within the group but also has their own personality. The lazy option of just viewing them as a single entity has thankfully being avoided.

Beth Crame as Angeline 

The show relies massively on a lot of spoken words, which can have an almost-Shakespearean like lyrical feel in the delivery. Having said that, the actual language is modern. 

Grace Long as Ella Grey and Olivia Onyehara as Claire

As the group head off to the coast ones becomes very aware of the cinematic sound design. The birds and noises are often coming from behind and to the side. This is not common in theatre and it worked in this example. The projection are more subtle than some shows we have seen recently and work perfectly well in this context in helping to give a sense to the feel of the play. 

Grace Long as Ella 

This is a different show. The story examines how immature teens try to make sense of their world, including interactions with parents and teachers. Whilst teens may feel that their take on life is correct and get annoyed when older people contradict that view. The tale also examines how they cope, or don't cope, with unexpected tragedy. 

Olivia Onyehara as Claire and Amonik Melaco as Sam 

The music has sometimes got a folky feel, which is in keeping with the folky style of the tale. There are well choreographed moments of movement from the cast plus some delightful singing.

The company of A Song for Ella Grey

The cast work hard in a show that demands tight direction. The teen-like chatter helps keep the energy going in the show. This show is different - in both staging and its tone. It is not going to be everyone's cup of tea, but I warmed to the story despite the heavy doses of exposition. If this show encourages an audience in their teens/twenties to get into live theatre then that it is be welcomed.  

The company of A Song for Ella Grey

Review: Stephen Oliver

Photos: Topher McGrillis

A Song for Ella Grey will open at Northern Stage, Newcastle (1-15 February) then tour to York Theatre Royal (20-24 February), Theatre Peckham (27 February-2 March), Hull Truck Theatre (5-9 March) Liverpool Playhouse (13-16 March) and Yvonne Arnaud Guildford (19-23 March).


For more information on A Song for Ella Grey visit To book tickets for Northern Stage, visit

The company of A Song for Ella Grey

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