UNFORTUNATE – The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch
The Patrick Studio, Birmingham Hippodrome, Tuesday 17th December 2019
Fat Rascal are back in town with another hilarious new musical. Following up their hit show Vulvarine and previous Disney parody, a gender-swapped Beauty and the Beast, they turn their merciless attention to another animated classic, Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Our protagonist is the film’s antagonist, the sea witch herself. In a Wicked kind of way, the script by Robyn Grant and Daniel Foxx, gives the villain a back story, and we see the other characters through the prism of her bitterness. The story then takes us through an extremely funny piss-take of the film. If you have detailed knowledge of the original work, (as I have) you will appreciate the comic business at play, as moments, some large and some small, are recreated and held up for mockery.
Robyn Grant herself appears as Ursula, looking fabulous in her tentacled frock. There is more than a hint of Katherine Hepburn to her drawling, high camp performance and the glint never leaves her blue-shadowed eyes. A liaison with Triton, back when he was a prince, leads to her banishment in the dark waters, but the couple’s mutual attraction never fades. Triton, now king of the ocean, seeks the sea witch’s help with his wayward daughter, the incredibly thick, Essex-toned Ariel (a brilliant characterisation by Katie Wells). Ariel falls for upper-class twit of a human, Prince Eric, a dimwit with a silver spoon in his mouth and a flute in his pocket. Jamie Mawson is terrific as the Prince – the playing is as broad as the humour, but the show is not without its sophistications.
Allie Munro chunters and nags as the crab Sebastian – presented here as Oirish rather than Caribbean, delivering one of the highlights of the score, ‘Under The Waves’. Later, Sebastian sings about the importance of gaining consent before you kiss the girl – an important message served up in a fun way. Fat Rascal never lecture but there are lessons for us in all their works. Steffan Rizzi is in great voice as Triton and everyone is involved in operating some puppet fish and other creatures for additional silliness. At times it seems like there is more than just five actors in the company.
The film references come as fast as the jokes. The lyrics, also by Grant and Foxx, are witty and, like the dialogue, are peppered with perfectly placed profanities. The tunes, by Tim Gilvin, stay just the right side of plagiarism, sending up the Disney hits as well as including some fine showtunes.
It’s light-hearted, filthy fun that will change the way you look at a dinglehopper for good. Scramble to get a ticket; to miss this marvellously funny work of genius would be, well, unfortunate.