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Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch - a big mother-sucking show

★★★★

Oh carp! She’s back.


Photo by Pamela Raith


Unfortunate pulls Ursula the sea witch from the darkness of her carcass banishment and into the spotlight to tell her side of the PG, Disneyfied tale. It has the same premise of Wicked, but with more sex, scandal and swearing.


Shawna Hamic embodies the tentacled villain with ballsy pazazz. She’s outspoken, brash, and wonderfully likeable despite it all. A foe, to frenemies, to friends with benefits story plays out between Ursula and Prince Triton (Thomas Lowe has stars in his eyes as the dreamer heir). At his celebratory Buthday Ball, he is forced to pick a princess and his true love is framed by the King for the brutal murder of a sea cucumber. She’s banished to the dark, until 20 years later when Triton needs help with his unruly daughter, Ariel.


The premise is unsurprisingly simple, but the set-up takes a 70-minute first act. Unfortunate is packed to the rafters with songs by Robyn Grant and Daniel Foxx (also on book) and Tim Gilvin. There’s Parisian-style love songs, dancefloor fillers about hot girl summers (Julian Capolei as Vanessa is a hoot) and soft rock ballads about sucking off. On the decks of Abby Clarke’s ship-like set, an on-stage band blast through them. Plus, the cast sing the seaweed off them – a brilliantly cast River Medway as the dim Ariel even adds a warbling Disney vibrato when showing off her treasures (read: tampons and Diet Coke cans).


Grant’s production is swimming in innuendo and naughtiness. It’s laugh-out-loud outrageous in its humour. Yet you still root for the characters. Even Jamie Mawson’s pompous, posh-boy Eric, and especially those played with aplomb by Allie Dart who juggles Sebastian, a chef love interest, and one half of an electro-rave eel duo.


Clarke’s design paired with Adam King’s lighting really plunges you deep down under with purples and blues washing the stage. It’s never too obvious either. Instead, body glitter hits the light and platform trainers add bouncy movement to the fun choreography (by Melody Sinclair).


But the puppets are at risk of stealing the show. We meet sweet felt hand puppets of young Triton and Ursula competing in maths class, and ugly bulging sea creatures that never made it to the movie. They’re in the capable hands of an ensemble who play can-canning prawns, lost souls and shipmates.


It's sink or swim when it comes to Unfortunate. You either sit back and let the outlandish humour wash over you – or you’ll think it’s a shipwreck. Luckily, I loved this big, mother-sucking show!

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