Thursday, February 22

Medusa the Musical – Manchester Musical Youth

It has to be said that 2020 hasn’t turned out the way anyone expected and one of the hardest hit sectors is the theatrical industry, who are having to come up with imaginative alternatives to performing shows with a live audience in order to keep theatre alive in people’s minds and hearts. The show must go on!

Manchester Musical Youth have risen to the challenge with their home grown production of “Medusa The Musical” which premiered tonight online. Written by MMY founder and Director, Dave Holden with musical direction from Kimberly Holden, this musical tells the story of Medusa and how she became the monster with a lethal icy stare and how and why she met her fate.

The only thing I knew about Medusa was that she had a head of snakes and met her grisly end at the hands of Perseus. What I didn’t know was that Medusa and Perseus were potentially a love interest until a series of events combined to join them in Medusa’s tragic end.

Obviously, watching a show online deprives you of the buzz of live theatre and the joy of watching something unfold in front of you with the company of an audience and that shared experience but that said, it also offers the potential for imaginative directorial decisions and creations and this was delivered well tonight. (Also, one of the plus points of watching at home is that there is no-one using their mobile phone or chewing noisy sweets – and if there is, you can throw them out, unlike real theatre!)

I watched it twice before putting pen to paper: I wasn’t familiar with the story and found the first viewing left me with questions, but the second viewing provided the answers. As with a lot of musicals, if you don’t know the story, you won’t always understand what’s going on the first time you watch it.

We still had the glory of the MMY ensemble in several of the songs which was created beautifully and carried the power and resonance that they are renowned for.

Charlotte Robinson as Medusa gave quite a heartbreaking performance in her first song “More Than A Dream”, making it look effortless, although singing such a strong song to no audience at all must have been quite testing. I did like her transition to Medusa the monster.

The stars of the show for me were Jude Ashcroft as Poseidon and John Richmond as Hermes. They were so striking but in different ways. I’m not sure how old Jude is but he has a maturity way beyond his years and managed to convey a sinister yet somehow weirdly seductive persona as the caddish Poseidon.

I’m not really sure where to start with John Richmond….he mesmerised me within seconds with his hypnotic, yet it has to be said, rather strange performance. All I know is that I want to see more of him in future productions!

As there is obviously no programme to go with this production, I’m not sure of the names of the songs but I believe there were five of them and I thought they were all well structured and at least two of them were immediate. My favourite is “Hermes’ Whispers” – not only for the content but for the way it was performed. I found “Medusa’s Solitude” to be very haunting and almost like a requiem, it was very impressive.

The cast dealt excellently with the multiple challenges of performing a musical using Zoom (other video conferencing platforms are available) and the show was creatively produced to good effect. We still managed to get the effect of an ensemble with multiple participants on screen at the same time and with choreography. It must be extremely challenging to lose the ‘kick’ of performing to a live audience, but each cast member put their heart and soul into it and the overall effect was very impressive.

I struggled with sound quality at times and couldn’t always tell what was being said which was a slight drawback, but I understood more when viewing for the second time.

I would say that this is an excellent rise to the challenge that has been set by Covid-19 and MMY have shown they are more than capable of finding a way to keep producing the quality musical theatre that they are renowned for.

Credit to the cast for their costumes and make-up which I believe they played more of a part in than usual.

The use of green screens has been a first as I understand it and produced backdrops which befitted the scenes and looked appropriate and effective.

In summary, I would say that Medusa the Musical will provide you with a fabulous theatrical fix and open your eyes to the possibilities available outside of live theatre. That said, I look forward to the day I can be back at Z-Arts with my pad and pen.

Reviewer: Nicky Lambert

Reviewed: 14th August 2020

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★