A myth for the modern age – an enthralling new adaptation of A Song for Ella Grey takes to the stage in Newcastle.

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Based on David Almond’s 2014 novel of the same name, this new theatrical adaptation of A Song for Ella Grey is a captivating retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice set against the familiar backdrop of the North East of England.

The story focuses on a group of five friends on the cusp of their A-level exams. Eager to enjoy one last adventure together before young adulthood calls, they embark on a trip to Bamburgh beach where they encounter the mystical Orpheus.

The cast of A Song for Ella Grey

We never actually see Orpheus on stage, only his ominous silhouette with twisted twigs and branches sprouting from his head. And it’s never entirely clear if Orpheus is a he, she or they.

Appearances and gender aside, it’s his music that enchants the group, and in particular, Ella. Still at home under the watchful eye of her protective adoptive parents, she views and hears everything from the beach on her mobile phone. 

In what could be described as a thoroughly modern meet cute, she falls in love with the mysterious Orpheus there and then, and her fate is sealed.

Grace Long as Ella Grey

The stage’s pillowy soft podiums draped in white duvets are stripped bare by act two. This pre-empts a darker turn for the teenagers, as they head back to a tunnel in the Ouseburn – the inconspicuous gateway to the underworld.

The show’s score perfectly complements the cast’s dynamic performances and narration throughout.

Emotive folk-style music and live singing contrast with tumbling sea waves and otherworldly sounds to evoke a sense of place, and home, here in the North East.

The play, directed by Esther Richardson and adapted by playwright Zoe Cooper, delves into the complexities of love, death, grief and friendship, all through a teenager’s eyes. 

But, despite these hard-hitting themes, this is a mesmerising, imaginative watch that blends the everyday with the mythical to craft a story that’s timeless and universal.

A Song for Ella Grey runs until Wednesday 15th February at Northern Stage and tours the UK until 16th March 2024.


Images: Topher McGrillis