Tag Archives: The Vaults

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


Peter Pan's Labyrinth

Peter Pan’s Labyrinth


The Vaults




Peter Pan's Labyrinth

“Creaky plot apart, Peter Pan’s Labyrinth is loaded with sparkling gifts for the audience.”


If The Sleeping Trees are back in town, it must be panto time. Well, sort of. For one thing, we’ve only just climbed out of our Halloween costumes. How lucky for us that The Sleeping Trees’ by now familiar formula of mashing together well loved folk tales, allows us to enjoy November and the holiday season in a whole new way. Putting together Peter Pan with Labyrinth is certainly an eye opening take on two classic favourites. If you are curious to see what happens when Peter Pan actually does grow up, and how he manages to end up trapped in The Goblin King’s Labyrinth, hurry along to the Vaults near Waterloo Station. But don’t take the kids with you this time. Because Peter Pan’s Labyrinth is an adult panto. Besides, who wants to spend time explaining the jokes to the kids when you could be singing and dancing along with Ziggy Stardust instead?

Peter Pan’s Labyrinth is the same kind of unlikely mash up as the Sleeping Trees’ 2020 Moby Dick Whittington. Sadly, the 2022 combo isn’t quite as successful as the earlier production, even though it’s fantastic to see the Trees back on stage instead of in front of the camera. The inventive energy of the performances, the set and costume design (Maeve Black), and effortless rapport with the audience is still there. Sound design (Ben Hales) and Lighting Design (Clancy Flynn) are strong in The Vaults’ rather gloomy setting. Perhaps the plot problem is that Peter Pan’s Labyrinth really is about Peter Pan, and the Labyrinth part of the story mostly functions as a way of bringing on David Bowie in his fabulous wig and costumes. At any rate, Peter seems to spend a long time finding his way out of the Labyrinth, even if it is explained by the fact that he is now middle aged and unable to fly. Not even Kermit the Frog, and random appearances of characters from Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth are of much help to a man who has lost his job, his flat, and the fairy who used to be his best friend. It is left to the Goblin King to take pity on Peter and get him to Neverland in time to stop an unfortunate wedding. You’ve probably guessed by now who gets to be the baby that the King takes as his reward.

Creaky plot apart, Peter Pan’s Labyrinth is loaded with sparkling gifts for the audience. The biggest gift is Dan Wye as Bowie, aka the Goblin King, himself. Wye almost steals the entire show. He’s too smart to play the role as pure drag, however. What we get instead is a very elegant, ironic performance all dressed up as an entertainer who can sing beautifully. It does honour to King Goblin, and it’s just Bowie-like enough to make us remember Ziggy and hope he’s somewhere cool, enjoying Wye’s performance. Wye has some serious competition in the trio of the Sleeping Trees, naturally. James Dunnell-Smith, John Woodburn and Joshua George Smith take on the roles of Wendy, Captain Hook, and Peter — and a whole host of unexpected cameos as well. The usual comedy mayhem ensues, and the audience is invited to join in often.

Peter Pan’s Labyrinth is a fun night out—not for the family perhaps, but the Sleeping Trees also have a family friendly show, Little Red Robin Hood, coming to the Battersea Arts Centre later on in the holiday season. In the meantime, you and your friends will get lots of pleasure from singing along with The Goblin King, and enjoying some fabulously punny cocktails at the bar.


Reviewed on 3rd November 2022

by Dominica Plummer

Photography by Alex Brenner



Top shows reviewed in October 2022:


A Single Man | ★★★★ | Park Theatre | October 2022
Barb Jungr Sings Bob Dylan | ★★★★ | Crazy Coqs | October 2022
Hofesh Shecter: Contemporary Dance 2 | ★★★★★ | Battersea Arts Centre | October 2022
Mary | ★★★★ | Hampstead Theatre | October 2022
The Choir Of Man | ★★★★ | Arts Theatre | October 2022
The Solid Life Of Sugar Water | ★★★★★ | Orange Tree Theatre | October 2022
The Two Popes | ★★★★ | Royal & Derngate | October 2022


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