Unfortunate : The Untold Story of Ursula The Sea Witch

“This sassy spectacle had us by the tentacles for the entirety of the show"

‘Unfortunate, The Untold Story of Ursula The Sea Witch - A Musical Parody ’ is currently making a splash at Southwark Playhouse until 17th February 2024. This sassy spectacle, celebrates all outcasts and had us by the tentacles for the entirety of the show. It’s full of brilliant writing, bold choices and magnificent set designs. Wave goodbye to The Little Mermaid story as you know it. After you hear Ursula’s rendition you will be siding Sea Witch all the way!

‘Unfortunate’ tells the story of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, tilted on its head and with lots of adult themes and sexual references. We are led through the eyes of Ursula who explains how her betrayal from Triton, Ariel and the other sea creatures impacted her life and sculpted her wrongful reputation as the villain.

Robyn Grant was Director for this piece of theatre which has toured around the UK and even appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  The rib-ticking and positively riotous book and lyrics were also written by Robyn Grant alongside cowriter Daniel Foxx with accompanying music by Tim Gilvin. The onstage band did a great job of feeding us the delicious rock-pop score. The extremely catchy songs were a mixture of styles ranging from love/hate ballads to rap, pop to spicy dance hits, not forgetting those must have cheesy musical theatre numbers too. 

Abby Clark’s creativity stole the show for me with her set and costume designs. The beautifully dark, carefully crafted set was built out of wood with two stories and lots of hidden surprises along the way. The centre held a double-door entrance surrounded by two featured stairwells, wooden tentacle embellishments and peep holes similar to those you’d find on a boat. The upper floor was just as intriguing with hoists, rope and a balcony in the middle. This gave our eyes lots to keep busy with and I particularly enjoyed the storm scene where a dangling Prince Eric is saved from drowning by Ariel. The fun didn’t stop there, puppets of all sizes and colours were used throughout to portray sea creatures in an edgy, highly imaginative fashion. The lighting was inky and ominous which contrasted nicely with the wild, whimsical and fanciful costumes. I’m so excited to see what Clark turns her hand to next as I’m sure it’s going to be just as weird and wonderful.

The cast were made up of nine people, all giving an abundance of electric energy and passion during each number. Shawna Hamic played the queen of the evening, sassy sea witch Ursula. You may recognise her from the hit Netflix series Orange is the New Black or even from her previous Broadway shows, however apparently she’s always wanted to perform in England so is thrilled to be part of this new production. Hamic gave us rich, powerful vocals and we were immediately at ease with this seasoned professional. There’s no doubt that her impressive resume is down to her outstanding characterisation and comic timing. Hamic’s narration was clear, charismatic and this icon was very ‘shore’ of herself for an ostracised octo-woman. There’s definitely big tentacle energy here. 

River Medway was another featured star in Unfortunate that you might have seen on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK. She brought the crowd tons of laughter with her sardonic style performance. She made a beautiful and dainty-looking Ariel merged with the speaking voice of Adele.

Thomas Lowe played the charming, handsome and utterly moronic King Triton. Serving hilarity with every line we couldn’t get enough of the lovable idiot.

I bet the whole audience would agree that Allie Dart is an indispensable part of this production. With her intelligent acting choices and conviction, she took multi-rolling to a new level. Bringing an array of (very diverse) characters to life, she gifted us a fantastically full out performance with each one. I couldn’t take my eyes off her and would crown her most 'Sofishticated' actor.

Jamie Mawson was another highlight who had a few fun parts to play with. His main role was Prince Eric, however he gave life to flounder and also King Triton’s father, our absolutely hilarious Act 1 antagonist. With all three characters he had us roaring with laughter. He brought a jovial juvenility to the stage and I would love to see him play King George III in Hamilton. 

Even though the entire ensemble and cast deserve a personal mention, I will say that Julian Capolei played an extremely sexy and sleek Vanessa. The audience loved them and their captivating portrayal of Grimsby too. Capolei had the motion of the ocean in their hips and wasn’t afraid to show it!

My only negative would be that I wished the microphones were slightly louder during the songs. At certain points the musicians overtook the soloists in volume. Also when singing alongside the ensemble, the leads got slightly drowned out, I mean, I know they’re under the sea but those important sound waves got lost. Apart from that it all went swimmingly! 

This LGBTQ+ tale of empowerment left us rooting for anyone who has ever been excluded for being different. Thankfully, there’s a happy ending after all and Ursula makes friends from her anemones. I was blown away by the level of creativity and energy throughout the show and couldn’t give it any less than 5 stars, or should I say starfish?!

'Seas' the day and get tickets as soon as you can because they are shelling out fast!

This show was reviewed on the 16th December 2023.  Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula The Sea Witch runs at the Southwark Playhouse Elephant until the 17th February 2024.  Tickets available here: Unfortunate - Southwark Playhouse

Review written by Jasmine Alice

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Photo credit: Pamela Raith

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