Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch
Underbelly Bristol Square – Ermintrude
18:55 (ends 26th August)
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5 stars)
This musical is a cross between ‘Wicked’ and ‘Avenue Q’. ‘Wicked’ because of how the story follows a vibrantly coloured (well, purple) villain from pop culture who is in fact just misunderstood and is vilified by a man because he feels threatened by her. The way that I find it similar to ‘Avenue Q’ is partly due to the puppets that were used as well as the way that it incorporates important messages about body positivity, sexuality, feminism, consent, the environment and how problematic Disney actually is. It’s a new spin on a story that everyone knows very well. Fun fact: before it was Disney-fied, ‘The Little Mermaid’ was actually a love letter from Hans Christian Anderson to Edvard Collin, someone who rejected him and so couldn’t be within the same way that the little mermaid couldn’t be with her prince.
The songs from the film were replaced by Fat Rascal Theatre’s original compositions, some of which were in roughly the same place plot-wise as the songs in ‘The Little Mermaid’ and were a little similar in subject or tone, but which I thought were better. Some of note are; ‘Another Day Under the Waves’ – a song which has been stuck in my head since, ‘We didn’t Make it to Disney’ which talks about how white-washed, misogynistic, racist and homophobic Disney is, ‘Unfortunate’, ‘Ask Before You Kiss the Girl’ because consent is important, and ‘Where the Dicks Are’ which is a parody of ‘Part of Your World’ and was a rather odd addition, but amusing none the less. I think a backing track was used but surprisingly there weren’t any noticeable difficulties or problems with the audio and so it did sound like there was a live band in the wings.
In the cast there were no weak links, everyone was a strong actor and a very good singer, all of whom – except Robyn Grant who played Ursula – took on more than one role and shifted seamlessly between them. One actress that stood out, in particular, was Allie Munro who played Sebastian (the crab), Flotsam (one of the eels) and Vanessa (Ursula’s human alter ego). She was particularly wonderful as Sebastian, at one point switching from a Jamaican accent to an Irish accent practically in the same sentence. Her Irish mutterings as she was going offstage were perhaps some of the best moments in the show. It was an interesting directorial choice but now it’s hard to imagine Sebastian not being Irish since the accent suits the character so well.
‘Unfortunate’ seems like a modern response to ‘The Little Mermaid’ because it does cover a lot of important issues. It’s a musical for a millennial, liberal and politically conscious audience who grew up watching the Disney film and now know better and can see the problems in it. It’s definitely a show for adults, as you can probably tell from the content songs and most of the dialogue. It makes fun of and comments on the film whilst highlighting how weird the age gap between Ariel and Prince Eric is (she’s 14 and he’s 34), sort of makes fun of the fact that most if not all Disney relationships end in marriage even though the couple hasn’t known each other for very long, and brings to the forefront how problematic Disney culture really is. Here I’m going to mention the song ‘Ask Before You Kiss
the Girl’ again because it is a really important message and even though it seems so basic and you laugh at the song lyrics. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone comment on how problematic the original song actually is, probably because of how it’s considered one of those classic Disney songs, and I’m glad that Fat Rascal Theatre has fixed it.
This musical is the version of ‘The Little Mermaid’ that accepts and acknowledges the phallic shaped castle turrets. It’s fun, it’s clever and it’s original. It deserves to be picked up in some regard and I hope that more people get to see it because it truly is a gem. Hans Christian Anderson would be proud.