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.
Squids in! Robyn Grant as Ursula (Photo: Matt Cawrey)
Leave a comment | tags: Allie Munro, Birmingham Hippodrome, Daniel Foxx, Fat Rascal, Jamie Mawson, Katie Wells, Patrick Studio, review, Robin Grant, Steffan Rizzi, The Little Mermaid, Tim Gilvin, Unfortunate, Ursula the Sea Witch | posted in musical, Review, Theatre Review
VULVARINE: A New Musical
The Old Joint Stock, Birmingham, Thursday 21st March, 2019
They’re back! Fat Rascal Theatre, who gave us Beauty & The Beast – a Musical Parody, the funniest show of last year, bring their new comedy musical to town, and it’s a cracker!
It’s an origin story: we witness the transformation of humble tax-office worker Bryony Buckle into a superhero for our time. With High Wycombe serving as Metropolis or Gotham City, the fast-paced fun involves an evil plan to rid the town (and then, the world!) of gender equality. Bryony, like other women, is injected by the local doctor, but on her way home, a well-timed bolt of lightning endows her with supernatural powers: strength, flight, the ability to talk with her cat… Dubbed ‘Vulvarine’ Bryony and her workmate Poppy, uncover the plot of the evil Mansplainer and many comic-book capers ensue.
In the title role, Allie Munro is an absolute hoot as the bespectacled and gauche Bryony learns to have confidence in her newfound abilities. Katie Wells lends enthusiastic, nerdy support as sidekick Poppy, while Robyn Grant’s mad scientist Mansplainer is a grotesque super-villain, all but chewing the scenery. Jamie Mawson is great as Lois Lane-figure Orson Bloom, awkwardly trying to establish a relationship with Bryony and distracted by the more assertive Vulvarine; and there is a hilarious turn from Steffan Rizzi as Sonya, wife to the villain. Where Grant goes gloriously over the top in her gender-swapped role, Rizzi is more subtle in his, creating an amusing portrayal without caricature or parody and yet is still very funny.
Grant also wrote the book, giving it a satirical edge and plenty of good old British smut and double entendres. The songs, composed by James Ringer-Beck with witty lyrics by Daniel Foxx and Grant, are tuneful, adhering to musical theatre convention with a lightness of touch and some fun choreography by Jed Berry. This is a show that makes a virtue of its small scale production: the special effects are hilariously low-budget (like the hairdryer that enhances Vulvarine’s flying) and there is a lot of humour to be derived from the knockabout staging and the relentless energy of the five talented performers.
The show makes its points without being preachy. Feminism can be funny and also self-deprecating, it turns out. The whole thing is infused with irresistible charm and silliness with an undercurrent of being very clever indeed. Robyn Grant is some kind of genius, I think, and not the evil kind.
Having a female superhero is no less effective, no less daft, than having male ones. Given the recent outcry from man-babies over the gender-swapping of Captain Marvel, this show could not be timelier.
Allie Munro as Bryony Buckle with Elton the cat (Robyn Grant has a hand in him too!)
1 Comment | tags: Allie Munro, Birmingham, Daniel Foxx, Fat Rascal Theatre, James Ringer-Beck, Jamie Mawson, Jed Berry, Katie Wells, Old Joint Stock, review, Robyn Grant, Steffan Rizzi, Vulvarine | posted in Review, Theatre Review