Review: Medusa's First Kiss at Little Angel Studios  ★★★★

Review: Medusa’s First Kiss at Little Angel Studios ★★★★

A queer teen romance, suitable for all the family… With puppets!? Well, everybody loves puppets!

Medusa’s First Kiss | Little Angel Studios | 22 Feb–21 Apr 2024 | £14

In 2022 Little Angel Theatre commissioned a short film entitled ‘Medusa’s First Kiss’. Produced and created by Holly Mallet (Moxy from Andy and the Odd Socks) and P Burton-Morgan (In the Willows, Little Mermaid, Jungle Book) it was a short musical tale of queer teen romance, with Medusa trying to unravel the complexities of queer identity, social interaction, and the awkward yearning of wanting your first kiss. With her puppet snake hair joining in on the chorus. It was, quite frankly, adorable.

Now in 2024, we have the extended tale on stage at Little Angel Studios, only this time it’s expanded and set in Olympus High where Medusa has just started school. Sports star Atlas seems to have a lot on his shoulders, Aphrodite is the popular cheerleader (naturally!) and emo girl Persephone scowls around by the school gates. But, all is not well at Olympus. Even the headteacher Hera seems to be coming apart at the seams…

As the piece unfolds, Medusa faces the classic teen drama struggles of fitting in, friendship, and finding out who you are – helped (or sometimes not!) by her sassy puppet snakes who guide us through the narrative. We’re asked to navigate the concept of “monsters” both real and metaphorical, and there’s a sweet emphasis throughout on kindness and self-love.

There’s a touch of the Heartstopper about this piece with its brightly colour coordinated set and bubbly queer teen romance. But it’s also unapologetically feminist, environmentalist, and vegan-friendly(!) fare too. Whilst it could potentially feel a touch ‘on the nose’ the writing from Burton-Morgan never takes itself too seriously. The older audience can laugh along appreciatively to an explanation of the patriarchy from puppet snakes, whilst the younger viewers are exposed to some larger ideas and terminology. Some of the jokes, both visual and verbal, don’t always quite land, but it’s still great fun as we watch Medusa unravel the social intricacies of Olympus High.

Mallet (playing Medusa) and Chloe Morley (playing everyone else!) have great chemistry together, and Morley in particular has so many characters, props and costume changes to contend with, it’s an impressive feat! The simple choreography from Mark Smith is effectively arranged for the small space, with elements of makaton and simple signing throughout. There are some earworms from Mallet here too – the joyful stomp-stomp-clapping in the chorus of Medusa’s rock anthem ‘Turn ’em to Stone’ is a highlight. The intimate space means both actors can communicate readily with the audience, and in these moments the piece becomes something wonderfully playful.

Joyously, there is a little something for all ages in this production. Millennial parents will get a kick out of hearing stylistic strains of music from their youth. Tweens will buy into the social and romantic aspects of the storyline, and the youngest members of the family will likely be entranced with the delightful puppetry and songs. Those who love mythology, gender politics, or queer theory will have plenty to giggle at as well!

There is a suggested age of 10+, but the Key Stage One age children in front of me were utterly engaged and delighted throughout, so check out some of the tracks on Spotify or the YouTube video mentioned above for a taste of what you are in for.

This stage production of ‘Medusa’s First Kiss’ is just as adorable as the original film, but is more thoughtful, amongst the colourful fun. Its real strength lies in its simple message of celebrating individuality and kindness. How wonderful would it have been to have seen a show unabashedly showcasing queer identities like this as a young kid?! This production is perfect for a Half Term treat and beyond – whether you have young theatre lovers to entertain, or are simply young at heart yourself.

Medusa’s First Kiss plays until 21 April 2024.

Credits

Book & Lyrics by P Burton-Morgan

Music & Lyrics by Holly Mallett

Directed by P Burton-Morgan

Choreographed by Mark Smith

Musical Supervisor Erika Gundesen

Sound Designed by Adrienne Quartly

Lighting Designed by Jess Brigham

Set & Costume Designed by Ellie Mills

Puppets Designed by Aya Nakamura, P Burton-Morgan

Associate Directed by Beth Wilson

Additional Puppetry Construction by Ellie Mills

Shadow Puppetry by Ellie Mills

Stage Managed by Josie Shipp

Stage Managed by Duncan Earlham

Performed by Holly Mallett, Chloe Morley and Nadia Wyn Abouayen. (The role of Medusa is shared by Holly and Nadia)

Videography by Jamie Scott-Smith and Joseph Lynn

Photography by Ellie Kurttz

Illustration by Amberin Huq