Sunday, May 19

A Song For Ella Grey – Hull Truck Theatre

Before sitting down to write my review of A Song For Ella Grey, a production I watched at the Hull Truck Theatre on the afternoon of Wednesday, March 6th, I felt the need to reacquaint myself with the ancient Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice, around which this play is centred.

Orpheus, though invisible, features hugely in this darkly romantic tale and, never having read David Almond’s book from which this production is adapted, I had to ensure I understood proceedings before engaging my keyboard.

As I took my seat on the front row, I was confronted by a stage setting of ceiling-high white voile curtains. Billowing gently, they draped over what appeared to be huge beds, again in white.

Despite this abundance of white, Hull Truck itself was very dimly lit throughout, resulting in a floor light being tripped over in the interval. Luckily no one was hurt.

At “curtain up”, the lone figure of Olivia Onyehara appeared centre stage. Her name is Claire and she is the life-long friend of Ella Grey, the girl of the title.

Ella (Grace Long), adopted at a very young age by a couple who are ultra-protective of her, is an ethereal creature – the quietest of the five friends who are all in their final year of school.

Completing the group are Sam (Amonik Melaco), Jay (Jonathan Iceton) and Angeline (Beth Crame).

On a trip to the Northumberland coast, four friends chat and generally enjoy each other’s company and their surroundings. The only one absent is Claire’s best friend, Ella.

However, after hearing a beautiful piece of music coming from the beach, Claire records it on her camera and sends it to her pal, who is mesmerised by it.

The music is by someone called Orpheus who is playing the lyre (just like in the Greek legend), and it’s he who draws Ella to the coast to be with her friends.

The carefree teenagers dance, sing, drink and generally lark about under the stars and on the beach, until tragedy strikes.

The white stage then gets a dark makeover; the fluffy white duvets replaced with hard black surfaces, matching the mood. A video back-screen changes with the plot, showing  flocks of white seabirds, a squally sea and a murmeration of black birds to name just a few sights.

With the untimely death of one of the group, the disbelief, sorrow and anger of the remaining four is palpable.

Claire, especially, is beside herself with a grief, verging on madness.

Despite the sadness, this magical retelling of the Orpheus myth has its lighthearted and amusing moments.

All five actors have a great stage presence, with clear, loud diction and wonderful solo singing voices – harmonising perfectly when together.

Their costumes are nothing special, just everyday wear for today’s teenagers.

Most take on dual roles – going from teens to fathers, teachers and angry mum. The Geordie accent is prevalent throughout, most noticeably in Crame, whose face in one of her dual roles changes from teen to middle-aged angry mum in an instant.

Plaintive music – electronic and guitar – courtesy of Zak Younger Banks, adds to the mystique on the night.

The five eventually find peace with the loss of their friend and can begin to plan for the rest of their lives.

Compelling stuff.

Running until Saturday, March 9th, 2024; 7.30pm nightly with a 2pm matinee on Saturday, 9th. Tickets cost from £16.50. Call (01482) 323638 or visit www.hulltruck.co.uk

Reviewer: Jackie Foottit

Reviewed: 6th March 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.
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