Tag Archives: Corrina Buchan

Unfortunate: The Untold Story Of Ursula The Sea Witch A Musical Parody


Southwark Playhouse Elephant

UNFORTUNATE at Southwark Playhouse Elephant


“This is a very funny show indeed, complemented beautifully by Tim Gilvin’s pastiche score”

Everybody loves a villain. Which is why, in recent years, our favourite Disney miscreants have stepped forward to take centre stage in their stories, such as ‘Cruella’ from The One Hundred and One Dalmatians, or ‘Maleficent’ from Sleeping Beauty. They usually remain the villain, relishing the boos and hisses that feed them. But what if they want to convince you that, at heart, they weren’t the ‘bad guy’ after all. A large chunk of “Unfortunate: the Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch” allows Ursula to present her mitigating circumstances. She ain’t ‘bad’ really. But she is ‘badass’.

Shawna Hamic well and truly gets the jury on her side as the loveable ‘octogirl’, tearing up our preconceptions of the hag and throwing them overboard. She captains the ship, steering the show through the scandals, sex and subversive salaciousness of the story. It is a choppy sea, whipped up by hailstorms of catchy tunes, slapstick, jokes, innuendo and overblown, camp-as-Christmas performances. The production has come a long way from its Edinburgh Fringe origins, mooring up in Southwark before embarking on a nationwide tour in the New Year. Its growth in popularity seems unstoppable. Unfortunately, so does its growth in length, and somebody needs to step in to stem the swelling.

Having been treated to a potted backstory depicting Ursula and Triton growing up together, from squabbling schoolkids to teenage sweethearts, we dive into the crux of the tale. Following the unfortunate dissection of a sea cucumber named Kirsty, Ursula is framed and banished to the dark waters of the ocean. Flash forward twenty years and Triton, a single dad, is having a hard time with his youngest daughter, Ariel. Thomas Lowe, all glitter and beard, is a delightfully dumb king of the sea who fails to rein in his daughter’s sexual curiosities. Or rather, in Ariel’s own words, her desire to be ‘where the dicks are’ (one of the many earworm numbers). River Medway is the lewd and lascivious Ariel who falls for Jamie Mawson’s dumber than dumb Prince Eric. To get the man though, the woman must ‘lose her voice’ – so croons Ursula in one of the many satirical messages that pepper the production.

Among the high camp, excessive and heightened delivery, a standout performance is Allie Dart, as Sebastian the crab. Swapping the Jamaican accent for Irish, Dart pinpoints – and joins in – the joyful ridiculousness of it all. Doubling up as Colette the French chef, she delivers another of the musical highlights, ‘Les Poissons’, which showcases the intelligence of the text and lyrics that is often drowned in the waves of razzamatazz. But as a spectacle, “Unfortunate…” is an absolute triumph. Abby Clarke is the unseen star of the show, whose set, costume and puppetry are worth the ticket price alone.

There is nothing Disney about this show whatsoever, a fact that is wondrously celebrated in the number ‘We Didn’t Make it Disney’. The writers, Robyn Grant and Daniel Foxx, have no eye on the family audience at all. But they do have an eye for comedy. This is a very funny show indeed, complemented beautifully by Tim Gilvin’s pastiche score. Chaotic and camp, full of sex and sorcery, mayhem and madness, it is an oceanic treat. You can’t just dip your toe in, you need to dive headlong. The shock as it washes over you is exhilarating and invigorating. Go on, take the plunge. You’ll need stamina to weather the storm (yes – I’ve mentioned it already – it does overstretch itself) but it is worth it.

UNFORTUNATE at Southwark Playhouse Elephant

Reviewed on 14th December 2023

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Pamela Raith




Previously reviewed at this venue:

Garry Starr Performs Everything | ★★★½ | December 2023
Lizzie | ★★★ | November 2023
Manic Street Creature | ★★★★ | October 2023
The Changeling | ★★★½ | October 2023
Ride | ★★★ | July 2023
How To Succeed In Business … | ★★★★★ | May 2023
Strike! | ★★★★★ | April 2023
The Tragedy Of Macbeth | ★★★★ | March 2023
Smoke | ★★ | February 2023
The Walworth Farce | ★★★ | February 2023



Click here to see our Recommended Shows page



The Space



The Space

Reviewed – 15th May 2019



“this would benefit from being condensed into the powerful drama that is aching to come out”


Hidden under our feet is an information superhighway that speeds up interactions between a large, diverse population, allowing individuals who may be widely separated to communicate and help each other out. This isn’t the internet. We’re talking about fungi: a mass of thin threads that link the roots of plants. The tree in your garden is probably hooked up to a bush down the road. This ‘wood wide web’ even has its own version of cybercrime, but for the most part ‘Mycorrhiza’ is a process of give and take. Our plants are interacting with each other, just trying to help each other survive.

Writer Luke Stapleton has adopted this for the title of his debut play running at The Space as part of the ‘Foreword Festival’ of new writing; and although the botanical reference runs through the bedrock of the text, it focuses on the two characters and their own complex relationship with each other and their back stories. The story opens to the soundtrack of the Scots rock band, Biffy Clyro, appropriately singing the words: ‘happpiness is an illusion’, while Dean (Scott Afton) and Alicia (Corrina Buchan) are schoolkids stranded on a remote Scottish island as the tide comes in, with no option but to wait until dawn. Flash forward six years to the same beach where they reunite and try to make sense of the intervening years, and of each other.

These two characters are naturally portrayed, with fine performances, by the two actors. On the surface they are the antithesis of each other yet are two sides of the same coin. Afton subtly depicts the tongue-tied anger that lies beneath Dean’s introversion while Buchan skilfully lets us know that beneath her thick-skinned, nervy brashness is a soul that is truly hurting. Buchan’s performance is the more polished and believable, but it is essentially Dean’s story and his struggle with his own masculinity; the cause of which is revealed in a final heartfelt monologue. It is only because he believes Alicia is sleeping and cannot hear that Dean is finally able to give voice to what he has been through.

But the struggles to communicate are also reflected in Stapleton’s struggle to get to the point. There is some fine writing on display with its stinging observations and sharp dialogue that reminds us sometimes of Irvine Welsh. But there is a lot of moss that needs to be stripped away to let us get right to the roots. At ninety minutes it feels long and rather than try to build on this to create a full-length show, this would benefit from being condensed into the powerful drama that is aching to come out. We are not helped by Sepy Baghaei’s staging that sometimes weakens the action and, with a backwash of clumsy transitions, drags it back.

Ultimately, though, a lot of food for thought is washed up and we can pick and choose what we take away with us. It may not be brand new, but it is slightly twisted which makes us look at the issues in a different way.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans



The Space until 18th May


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Laundry | ★★★ | January 2019
The Dip | ★★★★ | February 2019
The South Afreakins | ★★★★★ | February 2019
FFS! Feminist Fable Series | ★★★★ | March 2019
The Conductor | ★★★★ | March 2019
We Know Now Snowmen Exist | ★★★ | March 2019
Post Mortem | ★★★★ | April 2019
The Wasp | ★★★★ | April 2019
Delicacy | ★★★½ | May 2019
Me & My Doll | ★★ | May 2019


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