Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch review

A flawless production from start to finish, Unfortunate is a feminist retelling of family-favourite Disney film The Little Mermaid from the point of view of the original villain, Ursula.  From love to sex, puppets and wordplay, the musical has a tremendous element of fun and breathes new life into the classic fairytale by discussing important social issues and the outdated ideologies within the traditional story. 

The iconic villain-turned-protagonist  Ursula enters the stage with a comedic thud. She is seductively portrayed by Robyn Grant, who highlights the meaningful message at the show’s heart perfectly through comedic dance and the sheer vivacity of her performance.  The first number of the show tackles the sexism in Ursula’s original villainous portrayal with the brilliantly witty line, “if a man-made a deal like a mermaid girl and me / He’d get an OBE”. This is but the first of many brilliantly placed attacks on the traditional beauty standards dictated by modern media. The show continues in safe hands with Grant’s hilarious narration at its forefront. 

The Sea Witch is joined by puppet versions of her eel sidekicks from the original story. Beautifully designed, the believability of these puppet creatures is put into the sensationally competent hands of Jamie Mawson and Alison Munroe. However, their skills are not limited to puppeteering, as they both join the stage later on as Prince Eric and the cheerful crustacean Sebastian, respectively. . Deviating from the film version of the tale, Sebastian is no longer a strange, Jamaican-accented prude; instead,  Munroe plays him with hilarious pomp. Mawson’s Eric is aptly vain and utterly idiotic – as any man who marries a woman after only spending one day with her should be portrayed. 

The show continues to poke fun at the Disney movie, as a ragtag group of fish puppets come on and perform ‘We Didn’t Make It To Disney’, a song about their varying disabilities and sexualities, examples of the representation which Disney’s repertoire severely lacks. Subtly but hilariously attacking whitewashing and homophobia within the media, this song is a definite highlight in a show full of defiance against old-fashioned ideologies. 

Katie Wells portrays a hilarious version of Ariel, who of course represents the stereotypical beauty lacked by Ursula and her minions. Wells showcases a fantastic range as she mimics a stereotypical reality TV show star and plays the role of an airhead with a stunning competence. 

The show finishes with the final duet between true loves King Triton and Ursula, with the heart-warming message that Triton never cared that others thought Ursula’s fat defined her but rather cared only for her liberal views and outspoken nature. Steffan Rizzi plays the true heartthrob of the musical and is utterly swoon-worthy. With his powerful voice and comedic one-liners, he wins the audience’s hearts with ease. 

Unfortunate completely encompasses the unfeminist faults of the original film and of the modern media with stunning set, writing and performance. The musical keeps the message of acceptance alive from the beginning to the end, and indeed the traditional villain is switched to the hero with her wonderful humour, intelligence and liberal nature being her defining characters rather than her looks. Grant’s best line is the final one – “if Mary Poppins can call herself perfect, then why can’t I?”, a perfect close to a hilarious and touching story of self-love. 

 

Unfortunate is on at Ermintrude, Underbelly Bristo Square

At 18:55 until 26th August

Buy tickets here

 

Image: Underbelly

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