REVIEW: Medusa’s First Kiss (Little Angel Studios)

With the munchkins getting older, it’s getting harder to find shows aimed at their age group. As we said in last week’s review of Romeo and Juliet at Polka Theatre, it’s rare that you come across a production aimed squarely at the tween market, which makes it especially unusual to be doing two in a row. Medusa’s First Kiss is also the second show we’ve seen this month that adapts Greek mythology for young audiences, but this one’s suited to a slightly younger crowd than A Song for Ella Grey. Aimed at ages 10 and over, it promises to be “Percy Jackson meets Heartstopper, with rock songs”. We were invited to review it last weekend at Little Angel Studios.

Written by P Burton-Morgan and CBBC’s Holly Mallett, it’s a really interesting concept which fuses High School drama with Greek mythology. The hero(ine) of our tale is Medusa (Holly Mallett), the mythological Gorgon with snakes in her hair. So the story goes, Medusa’s appearance was so hideous that one look would turn you to stone (not unlike the glares you get from a 12 year old tasked with hanging up her school uniform).

Thankfully, in this version, Medusa doesn’t end up beheaded by a Greek God but she does have her fair share of challenges. New to Olympus High, she’s having a hard time making friends. It’s difficult enough trying to fit in when you have snakes in your hair, but she’s also got herself on the wrong side of mean girl, Athena. All Medusa really wants to do is work out where she belongs, and maybe have her first ever kiss too. (Spoiler alert – she does eventually end up getting that kiss, and it’s really fantastic to see same-sex relationships portrayed positively in a production for this age group.)

Image credit: Ellie Kurttz

The show touches on lots of extremely important issues, including body image, bullying, the patriarchy and LGBTQ+ rights. The concept that comes across most strongly is the idea that nobody at school (not even the grown-ups) really has things all figured out, and everyone’s just trying their best to find their way in life.

However, in trying to cover so much, it’s a bit too busy and doesn’t fully do any of the themes justice. This is compounded by cramming in as many different characters from Greek mythology as possible, resulting in a confusing narrative. And although aimed at ages 10 and over, some elements feel a little bit childish. The knitted snake puppets (which come in two forms) feel out of place, and don’t add anything to the narrative.

Of course, tweens are notoriously something of a hybrid between toddler and teenager, but this show could do with leaning further towards the teen side of the scale, perhaps taking inspiration from popular shows like Six and Fantastically Great Women who Changed the World. The rock music is great, so it would be great to see this production really focus on the musical aspects. Turning it into more of a concert style experience might work better here.

Overall, Medusa’s First Kiss is full of promise but, like it’s protagonist, still feels like a work in progress. However, it has the potential to be truly epic once it works out what it wants to be.

Medusa’s First Kiss plays at Little Angel Studios from 22 March to 21 April 2024. We received complimentary press tickets to the afternoon performance on 17 March.

Image credit: Ellie Kurttz

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