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A Song for Ella Grey | Theatre Peckham

A Song for Ella Grey is based on the novel of the same name, which is written by David Almond and adapted for stage by Zoe Cooper. Directed by Esther Richardson, the musical shows us the story of five friends; Sam, Angeline, Jay, Claire and Ella Grey, as they grapple with love, loss, freedom and growing up. Influenced and inspired by the Greek myths of Orpheus and Eurydice, the show embraces a mythical fairytale element into this beautiful piece of theatre.

The show shifts between traditional and dramatic story telling, with the actors breaking character and speaking directly into the audience with exaggerated theatricality, and remaining steadfast as an independent piece. In doing so, the musical allows itself to become a piece of theatre that would be enjoyed by kids and adults alike, allowing us a direct insight into how the characters feel and introducing new scenes.  

Grace Long is perfectly cast capturing the dreamy, imaginative and troubled Ella Grey. Amonik Melaco, Jonathan Iceton and Beth Crame as the three friends Sam, Jay and Angeline are wonderful and manage to create lasting impressions with their individual storylines. Also doubling into parents, teachers and the other students, Melaco, Iceton and Crame effortlessly slip into these many roles. Olivia Onyehara as Claire is sensational, and takes the audience through her emotional rollercoaster. 

The musical numbers are composed and directed by Emily Levy, and are used sparingly, ensuring that they are vital and meaningful in the storytelling process, and are truly powerful. The title song 'Song for Ella Grey' is everything you would hope it to be, with an ethereal feel to it that seeps into the theatre and audience. The cast have strong vocals and the musical quality transforms these songs into divinely moments. Singer Zak Younger Banks provides additional heavenly vocals for Orpheus. 


The show's set design (Verity Quinn) differs between the two acts, working as a parallel. The first act has a dream-like sense, with white drapes, thick white quilts and soft white long steps with blue and grey haze. This is contrasted by the cold, hard and unforgiving black slabs with sharper lighting, echoing the harsh reality the characters now reside in.

The lighting is exquisite (Chris Davey), with the blush of coloured lighting mixing with the haze to create fantastical moments. Particularly brilliant is the use of lighting in the final scene, that truly makes the scene feel divine. Sound and projections (Adam P McCready and Si Cole) help further elevated scenes with dreamy drizzle and music and flying birds and waves crashing. A Song for Ella Grey works hard to create a stimulating and mesmerising environment and achieves this. 

The entire piece works as a powerful piece of visual theatre, with every element carefully considered. Through its excellent use of lighting, props, staging and direction, A Song for Ella Grey produces a glorious feast for the eyes. The movement and dance (Ayesha Fazal) is another element of the show that brings a level of magic to the show, as the cast weave in and out of each other's paths, crossing and becoming larger entities. In a rather glorious celebration, the movement wordlessly eludes freedom and is wonderful to watch.

The show, whilst primarily focused on Ella Grey as narrated by her best friend Claire, fleshes out several other meaningful sub plots and characters. A sweet moment of bird watching has best friends Jay and Angeline confronting change and acceptance in a tearful and moving conversation. A breakdown from Ella's mother, performed by the remarkable Beth Crame, has the audience torn between feeling equally frustrated and deeply sympathetic towards her grievances. The show also explores the human nature to clutch and release experiences and people, grasping at the moments that become precious memories.

A particularly interesting notion to me was how the musical portrayed Orpheus, one of the most popular characters from Greek legends. The audience never truly see them, with the help of careful draping and clever lighting, but their presence has a massive impact on the audience and story. This veil of mystery around the character pulls the audience in and we begin to feel as Ella does. Referring to Orpheus as "she, he, they" and finally becoming Orpheus, they feel almost spiritual and a sense of being that is fascinating. 

A Song For Ella Grey is revelation of a show in bringing together a meld of theatre favourites in a new dramatic styling. The cast are brilliant, and the story takes the audience on a beautiful journey. It is currently playing at the Theatre Peckham until the 2nd of March. For more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Topher McGrillis


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