Culture Writer Jaiden Griffin reviews the Little Mermaid inspired musical Unfortunate, finding it to be a hilariously crude villain story

Written by Jaigriff
Last updated

Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch is the hilarious story of Ursula, swimming us through her childhood, high-school days and into the events of The Little Mermaid. Through the perspective of the Sea Witch herself, we watch Ursula (Shawna Hamic) fall in and out of love as she is banished from Titan’s (Thomas Lowe) kingdom, ready to return as the high-camp villain we know and love. Written by Robyn Grant and Daniel Foxx, the story is a fun re-telling of the Disney classic, only with more musical numbers and sex jokes.

Beginning in London, Unfortunate received high praise at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and now they are in Birmingham from until the 13th of April. If you do not want to miss it, (and trust me, you do not want to miss it), you can catch the show in the Grand Theatre in Wolverhampton from the 11th to the 14th of July.  

From the second she entered the stage, Hamic held complete captivation from the audience. I went into the show expecting a family friendly performance, but was quickly, and happily proven wrong. From the first number, ‘Nasty’, we were prepared for the amusingly witty writing of Grant and Foxx. Although some of the jokes could have easily fallen flat, Hamic’s confident and fantastic embodiment of Ursula make sure this did not happen, providing us with a stellar performance.

Although the interesting character development given to Ursula was unexpected, it was nevertheless well embodied by Hamic, who made her arc both captivating and convincing. Despite this, the love story could have been fleshed out slightly more, as it felt like I had missed something. However, it was not a detriment to the performance overall.

If there’s one thing I love, it’s a gay, campy musical

If there is one thing I love, it’s a gay, campy musical, and Unfortunate gives us just that, with some of the best original songs I’ve heard in a while. ‘Where The Dicks Are’ is Ariel’s (River Medway) solo number, taking inspiration from Disney’s ‘Part of Your World’. Medway, from RuPaul’s Drag Race UK season 3, holds us all in continued laughter while she sings about her desire to sleep with a human. Medway was a brilliant and hysterical cast, and I would return to experience her comedic timings again.

While remaining professional, the show does not try to take itself too seriously. Occasionally, you can catch some of the cast trying not to laugh throughout the musical numbers, making the experience more enjoyable.  Although the songs are quite silly, the musical directing of Arlene McNaught and Rachel Murphy was very impressive, and at times I found myself simply enjoying the music, which offered a subtle complexity to the show’s more sinister themes lurking beneath the fun nature.

The relatively small cast helped make each character memorable. With only four members of the Ensemble, each one made their presence known, through physical comedy or with whatever silly, yet kind of frightening looking sea creatures they got to bring to life.

This was only helped by the spectacular and whimsical lightning

On the topic of those sea creatures, the props and set utilised during the show were hilarious and unforgettable, helping to immerse the audience within the story. From the graveyard where several Disney characters lay, to Prince Eric’s (Jamie Mawson) ship, it felt as if we were under the sea with the characters. This was only helped by the spectacular and whimsical lighting which effectively conveyed the environment the scenes took place in. The mixture of light blues, with a soft yellows brought the beach to life despite the backdrop always being the same ship, and the ominous purple dragging us back to Ursula’s lair in a heartbeat.

During the entirety of the closing number, Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch, received a well-earned standing ovation. The show was beautifully delivered, entertaining and perfectly casted. As soon as the curtains fell, an audience member sitting near me put it perfectly: ‘they ate that’.

Rating: 4.5/5

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