So, you think you know the story of The Little Mermaid and its ghastly antagonist, Ursula? The one who took away our adored mermaid, Ariel's voice? Well, it’s time to think again. Fat Rascal have remixed the classic tale to show the truth behind the Disney screen. Placing Ursula at its heart, she's outspoken, outrageous and a plus size icon determined not to let her story lose its voice.
Delivered by a fantastic cast of five and directed by Siobhán Cannon-Brownlie, the book by Robyn Grant and Daniel Foxx starts as most fairytales do. With King Triton looking for a bride, Ursula puts herself forward in a bid to unite the two sides of the sea and make the muddied water clear again for her people. Though, with her gaudy blue eyeshadow and eight tentacles, the palace does not approve despite Triton’s pleas. Framing her for a crime most foul with a sea cucumber at the heart, Triton’s father banishes Ursula to the confines of the dark water. It’s only years later, when Triton’s wife has passed does he return for Ursula’s help. His daughter, Ariel, is not ready to take the throne and dreaming to be ‘Where The Boys With Dicks Are’ on land. At the King’s request, Ursula tests Ariel to ensure she is truly ready to rule the kingdom. This is the part where Disney are guilty of editing the footage. Here’s looking at you too, Wizard of Oz.
The 80 minute run is filled to the brim with laugh-out-loud scenes and a score from Tim Gilvin that really packs a punch. The language vastly ranges from tongue-in-cheek to downright filthy, and the characters are the epitome of the stereotyped Love Islanders. It really does make you wonder how on earth they were ever granted the permission to rewrite.
Their musical parody would be X-Rated at the animation studio, but on stage it's a hilarious romp under the sea. The wet and wild story also teaches a few lessons on its way.
Having a voice is more important than being a “basic bitch”
Despite having only a handful of scenes and one solo in the Disney movie, Fat Rascal’s Ursula dominates the stage. Portrayed by Robyn Grant, she oozes confidence and speaks her mind be it about the state of the waters or politics, or to stand up for herself and what she wants. In contrast, Ariel (Katie Wells) is a ditzy airhead bored by life under water and desperate for some leg-on-leg action. At the expense of her voice, she jumps at the chance to meet Eric (Jamie Mawson), who if you’ll forgive the sea pun, is a real drip and using a flute in his pocket to compensate for what he has in his trousers. On her wedding day, Ariel is quick to blame the other woman for turning his head. Though in the end, it’s Ursula who uses her voice for good and does not compromise who she is for the sake of another person.
People don’t always know what’s best for you
King Triton (Steffan Rizzi) spent his life regretting not fighting for his love with Ursula, and was given time to make amends before the end of the show. He also didn’t know how best to discipline his daughter, nor how to embrace who she wanted to be. It’s a good job that the Fat Rascal company have an array of puppets designed to be kick-ass sidekicks for our protagonists and path the way with advice and witty insight. Designed by Abby Clarke and Hugh Purves, Ursula is supported by two snakes who travel alongside her and whisper in her ear as well as a gang of misfits at home. Triton has his ever trusted companion, the now-Irish Sebastian (Allie Munro), by his side to deliver naive optimism that forces a smile.
You can’t judge a book by its cover
“I have eight tentacles, I’m never going to be a size eight.” laughs Ursula. Designed by Cory Shipp, and based off iconic and outlandish drag queen, Divine, Ursula is full of sex appeal in her black, figure hugging latex. She’s unapologetic about her appearance that in most parts is offset against the glittery, bright underwater land, exclaiming; “I’m fabulous as I am.”
Fat Rascal play stereotypes with intelligence and use the opportunity to question and challenge the portrayals we see in popular culture on the daily.
In one number, a motley crew of fish sing of how they are misrepresented on screen. ‘We Never Made It To Disney’ is a fast-paced roll call of everything they are; different races, different skin colours, different religious beliefs, different sexuality, different accents, different looks, and asking why it is not presented. Yes, it’s ridiculously funny with the tune as sweet as ‘It’s A Small World’ and the stage charisma of a Broadway closing number, but it really strikes a chord in its message.
You’ve got to ask before you kiss the girl
It’s the greatest achievement in a Disney film when the girl is finally kissed. It brings them back to life, it breaks the curse, it equates to a happily ever after, but is the kiss ever consented? Fat Rascal ask this question in their delightful recital ‘Ask The Girl’, the razor sharp track set to the familiar melody.
The sea is filled with plastic
The King’s first born died choking on a plastic bag, and the only treasures Ariel can find are fast food single-use forks. It’s no wonder when Eric so casually suggests throwing his litter into the sea. The script makes a point of the state of our dying oceans mentioning waste dumpage and oil spills and the irreversible effects that they are having on our waters and the creatures that live within them.