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Unfortunate Artwork

all about theatre 4 star review

Unfortunate The Untold Story of Ursula The Sea Witch is a parody musical which is camp, crude and certainly not family friendly with an age guidance of 16+. The show has book and lyrics by Robyn Grant and Daniel Foxx and it turns the story of The Little Mermaid on its head by telling it from Ursula's perspective making her out to be more like the hero of the story rather than the Villain.

The Little Mermaid is my favourite Disney movie as it was the first Disney movie I saw at the cinema as a child, so in 2022 when I heard that a musical called Unfortunate which parodied the Little Mermaid was doing a small UK tour, I knew I had to see it. I absolutely loved the show back in 2022 so when they announced it would be touring again this year and had been given a bit of an upgrade with a new song, set, costumes and an extended run time, I had to come and see what the new version of the show was like.

Unfortunate production shot

The show starts by telling us a bit about Ursula's back story and how she and Triton met as children when they were both being schooled by Sebastian. The young versions of Ursula and Triton are played by puppets which I thought was a good choice given the crude humour which is abundant in the show. The show then jumps forward and we see Ursula and Triton as teenagers, Triton discovers that Ursula possesses dark magic which he thinks is cool and the pair end up falling for each other. Triton is next in line for the thrown and so his father king Neptune wants him to find a bride, so they throw a ball and at the ball Triton is supposed to name his bride. Triton invites Ursula to the ball with the intention of naming her as his bride but when Neptune discovers this, he hatches a plan to prevent it from happening.

Unfortunate production shot

Neptune frames Ursula for the murder of Triton's beloved Cousin Kirsty which results in her being banished to the dark waters. Triton ends up marrying a mermaid named Athena and they have several daughters together. The show then fast forward several years, Triton's wife is dead and all of his daughter's bar Ariel have left, leaving Ariel as the heir to the throne. Ariel however is a bit of an air head and not up to the job so Tritan seeks out Ursula in the hopes she will be able to help him get Ariel ready for the throne. The rest of the story pretty much follows the story of the little mermaid however we see it from Ursulas perspective.

Unfortunate production shot

The set has been upgraded from the previous tour and set designer Abby Clarke has done a fantastic job of creating an adaptable split-level set which resembles the deck of a ship at the top and an underwater lair below. The set also houses the ban on the top level, and they are visible throughout the show which is something I love to see. One part of the set which I enjoyed was the gravestones which get pulled up from the floor in act two, these had some jokes on them about some other Disney characters which I frond quite funny. As well as the set Abby Clarke also designed the costumes and the puppets both of which were excellent and really helped bring the characters to life on stage.

Unfortunate production shot

The highlight of the show for me is its musical numbers, the lyrics by Robyn Grant and Daniel Foxx are witty and smart and the music has a pop rock feel to it with some numbers having undertones of the original little mermaid score. My favourite song is a new addition to the show called 'Sucking On You' which sounds like an 80's rock ballad. The song is sung by Triton and Ursula as they realise that they have feelings for each other, the vocals by Shawna Hamic (Ursula) and Thomas Lowe (Triton) are just incredible and their voices work so well together.

'We Didn't Make It To Disney' was another favourite of mine, the song highlights the criticisms and cliche's of the Disney world. This song is staged brilliantly with the use of puppets to represent the sea creatures from the dark waters. I also really enjoy the title track 'Unfortunate', this is a sort of alternative to Ursula's song 'Poor Unfortunate Souls' from the movie. I love this song and it has some clever lyrics however the song is sung very fast and so it is easy to miss some of the comic elements in the lyrics. Some other songs which I need to mention are 'Ask The Girl' which is a reimagining of the classic song 'Kiss The Girl' sung by Sebastian. This song has a bit of a messages and tells us about the importance of getting consent. The song 'Part Of Your World' has been replaced by a crude song entitled 'Where The Dick's are', this song tells us what Ariel is really looking for up on the surface.

Unfortunate production shot

The casting for this show is fantastic, Shawna Hamic totally embodies Ursula with her look and mannerisms, her voice is amazing, and she plays the role with confidence and conviction, owning the stage whenever she is on it. The only criticism I have is that she did seem to struggle a bit with the fast rap like sections of some of the songs.

Thomas Lowe was wonderful as Triton, he had great chemistry with Shawna and his characterisation of Triton really worked and showed us a very different Triton to the one we see in the movie. He also has an exceptional voice which was showcased wonderfully in the song 'To Be King'.

Unfortunate production shot

River Medway did a good job as the air headed Ariel, for most of the show Ariel has no voice so Medway has to rely on facial expressions and miming to get across Ariel's thoughts and feeling.

Jamie Mawson played both King Neptune and Prince Eric and his characterisation of the two characters was very good, Neptune was a ruthless excentric leader and Price Eric was like a posh obnoxious school boy. Mawson brought a lot of energy, fun and humour to the characters and played them both with conviction.

Allie Dart plays multiple roles in this production all of which have different accents, her ability to slip between the characters so seamlessly was just amazing and she is a very talented performer. One of Allie's characters is a new addition to the show, a chef called Collet which they have based on the Chef Collet from the Ratatouille movie. My favourite scene of Allie's is when she has to play the role of Collet and Sebastian in the same scene. In the scene Collet the chef is preparing a meal and cooking Sebastian, this resulted in a hilarious scene where Allie had to transition between the two characters very quickly several times, she did this brilliantly and her transitions were slick and seamless.

On the night I saw the show we had Jack Grey standing in for Julian Capolei and playing Grimsby, Vanessa and one of Ursula's eels. He did a fantastic job, he had great energy on stage and was able to slip seamlessly between the characters.

Unfortunate cast

I thoroughly enjoyed Unfortunate it's camp, chaotic, cheeky, crude and hilariously funny. I loved the development of Ursula's character and her portrayal as a strong, powerful, independent feminist who is unapologetic, sexually liberated and body positive but also enjoyed the fact that she retained her traits from the movie. I liked the witty humour in the song lyrics as well as the hilarious one liners that Ursula gets. I have to admit I wasn't a fan of some of the more low brow humour as it sometimes felt out of place and a little bit weird. The songs in this show are all bangers and I could definitely listen to this soundtrack on repeat as I don't think there was a song I didn't like. The show along with all its humour does have some underlining messages such as the power and importance of you voice and that you should love the body that you have been given. If you are a fan of Disney especially the little mermaid then I think you would love this show, it just pokes a bit of fun at it and it is a really fun show.

Unfortunate is on at The Liverpool Playhouse until 9th March 2024, you can purchase tickets by clicking on the button below.

If you click the button below you will find Unfortunate's official website site where you can find out more information about the show and see the other venues the show will visiting on its UK tour

Photo Credit - Pamela Raith

*Our tickets for this show were kindly gifted in exchange for an honest review


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