Tag Archives: Tim Gilvin

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

Unfortunate

Unfortunate

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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

 

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