Tag Archives: Hugh Purves


Unfortunate: The Untold Story Of Ursula The Sea Witch


Underbelly Festival Earls Court


Unfortunate: The Untold Story Of Ursula The Sea Witch

Underbelly Festival Earls Court

Reviewed – 23rd June 2022



“Elliotte Williams-N’Dure’s Ursula grabs the reigns and takes supreme control”


‘The Wizard of Oz’ has had ‘Wicked, ‘Sleeping Beauty’ has had ‘Maleficent’, ‘The Hundred and One Dalmatians’ had ‘Cruella’; and now ‘The Little Mermaid’ is dragging the villain centre stage with “Ursula”; Fat Rascal Theatre’s take on Disney’s take on Hans Christian Anderson’s ‘The Little Mermaid’. With a bit of a mouthful for a title – “Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch’ – the stress is on the “Unfortunate”, although there is nothing unfortunate about this scandalous, sexy, subversive, salacious story.

If the delivery is wicked (in every sense of the word: old, new and urban), the premise is noble. What if Ursula wasn’t bad? If she were a victim of circumstance, prejudice, and cancel culture. If you can dig beneath the laughs, the slapstick and the outrageously catchy tunes (and you’ll need a pretty large spade) you will discover a character who has more dimensions than Disney’s hi-tech animation wizardry could ever produce.

Banished over an unfortunate incident involving a sea cucumber, Ursula is later called upon by King Triton to sort out his wayward daughter Ariel. She’s not the heir he hoped for; she just wants to be “where the dicks are”. Yes, you read that correctly. Not the most subtle or profound witticism but it does make for a hilarious and irresistible earworm of a song. Like the rest of Tim Gilvin’s score, with Robyn Grant’s and Daniel Foxx’s book and lyrics, this musical washes over you in gorgeous waves, pulling you under so you don’t care about when you can next come up for air.

Originally an hour-long tsunami of a show, the writers have spent the pandemic expanding it into two acts. It seems that this might have diluted the impact and lifted the plot from the anchor that is Ursula. But before it can drift too far, Elliotte Williams-N’Dure’s Ursula grabs the reigns and takes supreme control. A commanding performance with an equally commanding presence. We root for her from the outset and, while her journey isn’t the grandest arc in theatre, we see the effects of her personality on the other characters’ journeys. Miracle Chance’s ditzy, petulant, TOWIE inspired Ariel is certainly taught a thing or two by Ursula. The messages are unaffected by the tongue-in-cheek delivery. “It’s unfortunate you have to lose your voice to get a man” she croons just before interval.

George Whitty, as the glittered and bearded Triton, casts his stunning voice into the air – enough to keep the upturned, purple cow that is the underbelly inflated all on its own. All the company are in fine voice, and on finer form, particularly the starry and mesmerising Allie Dart-Munro as Sebastian, the Irish crab, among other voices of reason, redemption and ridiculousness. Such is the versatility of this ensemble cast, one of the biggest surprises of the evening is delivered at curtain call when we realise they are only number six in total. It is all aided by the puppetry (puppets directed, designed and built by Hugh Purves with co-designer Abby Clarke) and costumes (Cory Shipp): works of art in themselves.

With a collection of songs that are intelligent, funny and memorable; and with a storyline that is bold, brave and rebellious, “Unfortunate” is as far removed from Disney as you can get. “We Didn’t Make It to Disney” exemplifies its intentions as the cast make a celebration of banishing any attempt at grabbing a family audience. Leave the kids at home, folks. Enjoy the X-rated humour in the company of like-minded grown-up children.

A little rough around the edges, “Unfortunate…” is not quite watertight. A few bits of flotsam and jetsam could be dredged, but its London premiere breaks onto the shores of Earls Court in a tidal wave of irreverent madness, mayhem and musicality. Go and get swept away.

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Craig Sugden


Unfortunate: The Untold Story Of Ursula The Sea Witch

Underbelly Festival until 16th July followed by UK Tour


Other shows recently reviewed by Jonathan:
The Silent Woman | ★★★★ | White Bear Theatre | April 2022
The Straw Chair | ★★★ | Finborough Theatre | April 2022
Grease | ★★★★ | Dominion Theatre | May 2022
Legally Blonde | ★★★ | Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre | May 2022
Orlando | ★★★★ | Jermyn Street Theatre | May 2022
The Breach | ★★★ | Hampstead Theatre | May 2022
The End of the Night | ★★ | Park Theatre | May 2022
The Man Behind the Mask | ★★★★ | Churchill Theatre | May 2022
Til Death do us Part | ★★★★★ | Theatre503 | May 2022
Tomorrow May Be My Last | ★★★★★ | Old Red Lion Theatre | May 2022


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King’s Head Theatre & UK Tour



King’s Head Theatre

Reviewed – 13th June 2019



“Bryony Buckle may be ‘astoundingly average’ but Vulvarine’s cast and direction are anything but”


Vulvarine: A New Musical is a superhero comic musical parody which tells the story of Bryony Buckle (Allie Munro), a young woman who lives an exceedingly ordinary life in the uneventful town of High Wycombe. Bryony checks tax codes by day and sips red wine with her cat Elton (Robyn Grant) by night. That is, however, before she is transformed into the superhero Vulvarine following a hormone injection at the doctor’s and a convenient lightning strike.

Following the discovery of an error in the tampon tax, Vulvarine, her best friend Poppy (Katie Wells) and her pretty boy love interest Orson Bloom (Jamie Mawson) must take on the misogynistic Mansplainer (Robyn Grant) and his wife Sonya (Steffan Rizzi) before women in High Wycombe and beyond are made subservient by his Hormone-a-beam.

Through Vulvarine: A New Musical, Artistic Director Robyn Grant aims to highlight the extensive use of hormonal medication amongst women. Grant herself was on the contraceptive pill for period pain from the age of fourteen and it was only ten years later that she became aware of its terrifying side effects. With the rising wave of abortion restrictions in America, Grant hopes Vulvarine will inspire women to take control of their own bodies and revolt against those who wish to restrict womankind. Despite these powerful themes, Vulvarine: A New Musical never takes itself too seriously and succeeds in engaging its audience with these important topics in a fun and light-hearted way.

Vulvarine: A New Musical is exceedingly funny. The cast take a little while to warm up, but the show is soon in full swing with a laugh a minute. The dialogue is quick and hyperaware of the superhero clichés it draws on. Instances of actors breaking the fourth wall such as when a stagehand lifts a chair to demonstrate Vulvarine’s super-strength before looking at the audience, going ‘oops!’ and running off stage are wonderfully humorous additions.

The stage consists of a simple cardboard townscape for most of the show but becomes more elaborate towards the performance’s end with the incorporation of a (cardboard) control panel and shark tank when the protagonists infiltrate Mansplainer’s lair. The props (Hugh Purves) are a lot of fun and include a plastic pigeon on a stick which transports Bryony and Poppy to a park bench and a muppet-style puppet acting as Elton the Cat. At times the stage does seem rather crowded, but the cast work well with the space they have.

Grant shines throughout and Munro is a strong lead. Wells, Mawson and Rizzi all provided excellent support with the former electrifying the stage with the solo ‘Boys will be Boys’. Other notable songs are the Avenue Q-esque ‘Licking My Anus’ performed by Elton the Cat and ‘Who’s that Girl’ performed by both Bryony and Poppy and nicely threaded throughout the musical in multiple reprises. Bryony Buckle may be ‘astoundingly average’ but Vulvarine’s cast and direction are anything but.


Reviewed by Flora Doble

Photography by Lidia Crisafulli



King’s Head Theatre until 6th July then UK Tour continues


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Outlying Islands | ★★★★ | January 2019
Carmen | ★★★★ | February 2019
Timpson: The Musical | ★★★ | February 2019
The Crown Dual | ★★★★ | March 2019
Undetectable | ★★★★ | March 2019
Awkward Conversations With Animals … | ★★★★ | April 2019
HMS Pinafore | ★★★★ | April 2019
Unsung | ★★★½ | April 2019
Coral Browne: This F***Ing Lady! | ★★ | May 2019
This Island’s Mine | ★★★★★ | May 2019


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