Tag Archives: Joe Davison

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 Other Palace



The Other Palace

Reviewed – 15th July 2022



“Hannah Benson’s immersive staging bubbles with an energy”


There is, and always has been, debate about the purpose or usefulness of demographic tags. But whether we like them or not, or whether they influence an individual or a group of personalities, the labels are here to stay.

If you are a ‘Millennial’ you witnessed the 9/11 terrorist attacks that shook the world, and were likely to be old enough to comprehend its historical significance. You grew up in the shadow of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; you will have watched the erosion of the global political climate. Reaching adulthood, you would have walked headlong into the height of an economic recession. And the internet has pretty much always been there for you.

Is this significant?

If you are a ‘Millennial’ (according to psychologists) you are likely to be confident, but also confused. You are tolerant, but have an overblown sense of entitlement. You are generous, but at the same time narcissistic. In other words, you merely possess the contradictions that make us human.

Elliot Clay has written a song cycle that tells these Millennials’ stories. But he runs up against the same problems. For the most part they come across as merely human stories; under the Millennial banner. And it is a banner that is waved flamboyantly. Colourful yet superficial. There is little that earmarks a Millennial’s ownership of the subject matter. So we are left with a song cycle. And there is nothing wrong with that. Clay has composed some very fine numbers here. But a trick has been missed, and what is slightly frustrating about the show is the awareness that some sort of thread could have been weaved into the overall concept; or something to bind the characters into some sort of collective. To give them a real, solid context or journey.

Fortunately, that reservation in no way extends to the presentation. Hannah Benson’s immersive staging bubbles with an energy that sweeps aside the misgivings and allows us just to have fun. Andrew Exeter’s design matches, and supersedes, the sheer pizzazz. The Other Palace is transformed into a candied, Wonka-like, emporium. Part disco, part adventure playground; shimmering with colours that overflow with e-numbers. You can taste the sweetness of the set.

The performances are the main attraction. Despite most of their energy being channelled into Tinovimbanashe Sibanda’s slick choreography, the cast of six unleash their glorious voices to the crowd with the dynamism and craftmanship befitting the cream of Musical Theatre. Clay’s songs and lyrics are given the starry treatment and they have the appeal to stand their ground, but “Millennials”, as a show, lacks the cohesive ingredients to ensure a similar longevity. But as a gig, it’s a pretty good night out.



Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Mark Senior



The Other Palace until 7th August


All our reviews this month so far – click to read:

I Can’t Hear You | ★★★★ | Theatre503 | July 2022

The Hive | ★★★ | Hoxton Hall | July 2022

Report to an Academy | | Old Red Lion Theatre | July 2022

Barefoot in the Park | ★★★★ | The Mill at Sonning | July 2022

Flat and Curves | ★★★★★ | Toulouse Lautrec | July 2022

Hungry | ★★★★★ | Soho Theatre | July 2022

Pennyroyal | ★★★★ | Finborough Theatre | July 2022

Shit-Faced Shakespeare: Romeo & Juliet | ★★★★ | Leicester Square Theatre | July 2022


Click here to see our most recent reviews