Unfortunate - The Untold Story of Ursula The Sea Witch

Having seen a scaled down version (yes, we are starting with the fishy puns already!) back in 2019 in the Patrick Studio at Birmingham Hippodrome, I knew that this was a show that had legs, or tentacles if you will, to go on to greater things! Writers Robyn Grant and Daniel Foxx have created quite the beast, putting Ursula front and centre in the most outrageous and fabulous way.  This is the story of a Disney villain, but not how we know it!

Firstly, the casting of Shawna Hamic as Ursula is completely perfect. From the moment she appears on stage, with purple ‘punk’ style hair, and tentacles flowing around her legs, its clear that she is the very embodiment of the octo-woman we all know.  However, all is not quite as it seems, as this show is a chance for Ursula to set the record straight and tell her story, proving that she is not the villain everyone believes her to be.  Hamic is powerful, commanding, sassy and sexy in equal measures, with a wicked tongue to match.  Her vocal prowess is also outstanding.

Telling of her love affair with Triton, played magnificently by Thomas Lowe, we delve deep into the bottom of the sea where we meet those familiar Disney characters synonymous with The Little Mermaid film, including Sebastian (Allie Dart), Eric (Jamie Mawson) and a whole host of scary looking sea creatures who ‘Didn’t Make it to Disney’.  This show is full of hilarious side swipes at the great Disney empire, flipping its fairy-tale vibe completely on its head to comical effect. 

The songs, with orchestrations and arrangements by Tim Gilvin, really do tickle your tentacles with their outright filth.  I mean, when you have song titles like ‘Where The Dicks Are’ and ‘Sucking on You’, you can kind of tell the sort of show you are about to see. Obviously, this is not a show for your Disney loving child, with a 16+ age guidance on tickets.

Stand out performer for me was Allie Dart who multi-roles as Sebastian, one half of Flotsam and Jetsam and the French chef who wins the heart of one red-haired sea creature.   Dart is a very confident performer able to provide hilarity in bucket fulls through her characterisation of the parts she plays. ‘Les Poissons’ at the start of Act Two was a masterclass in performance through song, with the addition of changing roles within record time and back again, which added so much more to this wonderful part of the show, notwithstanding the fantastic French accent.

The Little Mermaid, who we all know as Ariel is played by River Medway, a RuPaul’s Drag Race UK star who was able to provide such a comical twist to this role. Playing the character in an Essex accent was inspired and garnered more than a few laughs from the audience.  Thomas Lowe as Triton was a joy to watch.  Clearly a very experienced singer, Lowe’s vocals filled the auditorium with such power and again his comedic portrayal of this handsome, blonde-haired ruler of the seas was faultless.

The costuming by Abby Clarke is colourful and vibrant, bringing elements of the sea into the overall style.  Also in charge of the set, Clarke brought further items of sea faring paraphernalia into the design, including fishing nets draped around the structure of a wooden boat. 

A true ensemble piece, everyone on stage works so hard, whether that is puppeteering the many wonderful creations by Abby Clarke, offering up backing vocals dressed in bright pink costuming, or surrounding Ursula with sock on hand, everyone should be commended for their level of enthusiasm throughout.

For any Disney fan who has a wicked streak, this show is a definite must see.  If you miss the boat in Birmingham though, Midlanders have another opportunity to see Ursula in all her glory at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre from the 11-14 July 2024.

This show was reviewed on the 11th April 2024 at the Birmingham Hippodrome where it runs until the 13th April 2024.  Tickets available here: Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch – Birmingham Hippodrome

Review written by Emma Rowley


Photo credit: Pamela Raith

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