Tag Archives: Robyn Grant

Unfortunate

Unfortunate: The Untold Story Of Ursula The Sea Witch

★★★★★

Underbelly Festival Earls Court

Unfortunate

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

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Unfortunate: The Untold Story Of Ursula The Sea Witch

★★★★★

Underbelly Bristo Square

Unfortunate: The Untold Story Of Ursula The Sea Witch

Unfortunate: The Untold Story Of Ursula The Sea Witch

Underbelly Bristo Square

Reviewed – 3rd August 2019

★★★★★

 

“Grant and Foxx continue to prove themselves one of the most talented writing duos off West End”

 

Fans of Disney’s The Little Mermaid will recall the villain Ursula being sent to her watery grave at the end of the film, defeated by the righteous Prince Eric and Ariel. But what if things weren’t what they seemed? What if we don’t know the whole story, or even the half of it?

Fat Rascal Theatre propose the following version of events instead: One – Ursula is not evil. Prejudice against plus-sized, outspoken octo-women in Atlantica, and a serious misunderstanding involving a sea cucumber, lead to her banishment. Two – twenty years later, a desperate King Triton comes to her for help with his wayward daughter Ariel. All she thinks about is boys! She even has a crush on a human one now! If Ursula can help teach her a lesson, Triton will lift her banishment. Three – Ursula’s plan is to teach Ariel strength and independence by allowing her to discover that her voice is more important than any boy.

Unfortunate is big, purple, fabulous, and perfect. Written by Robyn Grant and Daniel Foxx, and devised by the company, this musical parody is a glorious, shimmery bid for the vindication of Ursula the Sea Witch in a celebration of feminism and body positivity. The songs are brilliant (Grant, Foxx, and Tim Gilvin): “How Unfortunate” is a banger, “Ask Her First” is genius, and Prince Eric’s flute song will wring tears of laughter from you.

Grant is grandiose, slick, and badass as the empowered octo-woman. Steffan Rizzi is winsome as the earnest King Triton. Katie Wells (Ariel) and Jamie Mawson (Prince Eric) are hilarious as the “braindead lovers”, and Allie Munro is an endearing Irish Sebastian. High-energy performances and excellent multi-roling across the board. All of the vocals are top-notch (Wells even nails singing dreadfully off-key as a tone-deaf Ariel). Abby Clarke’s puppets are delightfully funny (Max in particular steals the show).

Having worked together on multiple previous hits, Grant and Foxx continue to prove themselves one of the most talented writing duos off West End. Ursula’s backstory is ingenious regarding how well it explains the events of the film. There’s a natural comparison to Wicked in Unfortunate’s appeal to redeem a famous villain. Having seen both I’m somewhat surprised to say I find Unfortunate’s story more convincing. It’s a more logical, organic fit to the original work’s content. And not only have Grant and Foxx credibly overhauled the plot of The Little Mermaid, they’ve remedied all of the misogyny in the original film. It’s a mic-drop achievement. For what may sound like just a silly spoof, the level of craft and sophistication behind the book and lyrics of this show is seriously impressive.

Unfortunate is seventy minutes of non-stop fun and hilarity. Book early. This will undoubtedly be one of the top shows in Edinburgh this year.

 

Reviewed by Addison Waite

Photography by Matt Cawrey

 


Unfortunate: The Untold Story Of Ursula The Sea Witch

Underbelly Bristo Square until 26th August as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019

 

 

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