Theatre Review: Unfortunate (The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch)

I bought a last minute ticket to see Unfortunate during its short run at The Lowry (Salford), and of course it was because I’m a big Disney fan. The prospect of a Disney parody musical which was sold out at Edinburgh Fringe sounded too good to resist. And not only am I glad I caught it, I just had to share my thoughts and to encourage everyone else to see it if they get the chance.

Unfortunate is the story of Ursula the Sea Witch, before, during and after the events of The Little Mermaid. Yes that’s right – she survived! Following in the footsteps of Maleficent, another Disney Villain gets the chance to tell the story from her perspective. But this time there’s show tunes and plenty of adult humour!

In this show Ursula is an intelligent, witty and absolutely fabulous diva, with a sexual past she’s not afraid to share. One of her past loves – King Triton (or Prince Triton as he was at the time)! Years after their fling and a misunderstanding that lead to him marrying someone more suitable (a thin, pretty mermaid with no political leanings), Triton seeks Ursula out to help him with his troublesome daughter Ariel, who is proving to be anything but future Queen material.

So the classic Disney story is rewritten with Ursula as our sassy, misunderstood heroine who is trying to teach Ariel some life lessons. And Ariel and Prince Eric are now hilariously empty headed, with their “love at first sight” storyline as ridiculous as you’d hope. If you’re easily offended by sexual references though, then this is not the Disney musical for you. Ariel’s obsession with the human world is explained in a song about how much she wants to be “where the dicks are”, and Eric is constantly banging on about how much he loves his flute. And Ursula is far from subtle about her sexual kinks. It’s all very hilarious, but perhaps not very family friendly. But don’t worry, the fairytale element is still present, and despite the story being very non-Disney, we get not one but two romances, and a classic happy ending.

At the Lowry this show was shown on the smaller Quays Theatre stage. It was quite a small production with a fantastic cast of just 6 playing Ursula, Triton, Ariel, Eric, Sebastian, and various other smaller parts, including the excellent use of puppetry for the various sea creatures. The set was minimal too – a cabaret-style set up with Ursula MCing her story, like the true diva she is.

All in all I had a great time. Unfortunate has a very witty script, with some hilarious and genuinely memorable songs. It was fun, colourful and right up my street, and I’d be very happy to see it again some time!

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