As a child Elliotte Williams- N’Dure dreamed of a career in the theatre, but has become best known as a singer, working with top music producers and releasing songs internationally. Now Elliotte will lead the cast as Ursula in Fat Rascal Theatre’s acclaimed Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch, which will open at Underbelly Festival Earls Court, before heading to the Edinburgh Fringe, and then touring to The Lowry, MAST and Cast Doncaster in September.
As an accomplished singer, Elliotte is well placed to lead the cast in a demanding musical theatre role, “I’ve always been singing since I was a kid, it’s just part of the culture of my family, everybody sings all the time, it’s just how we communicate,” says Elliotte, demonstrating how the family announce dinner is ready through song.
But unlike many of her cast mates, Elliotte never attended drama school, “I think that it makes me a little bit unique in the sense that I just come with a certain rawness or a certain energy, I have my own rhythm, but at the same time that can be tricky, because then I need to fit my rhythm into the rhythm of how this industry actually works.”
Unfortunate, ran at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2019, and for the 2022 run there have been some significant changes, “the story has been expanded, we’re getting a lot more background on all the different players,” explains Elliotte, “the score has grown massively too and it’s wonderful, and that’s what’s most exciting for me; when I was auditioning, I listened to the soundtrack and I was like, wow this is great, and now there’s something like five times as many songs in this new version.”
Most audiences will already be familiar with Disney’s The Little Mermaid, and the character of Ursula, but Elliotte says this story is very different to the one we all remember, “it’s fun, filthy and fabulous,” says Elliotte, “it’s all the color, vibrance and feel of Disney but with a lot more layers, oh and it’s not meant for young kids!”
Unfortunate explores the story from the point of view of Ursula, and paints her in a different light than the Disney version did. “I think that people will find it very relatable because I think everyone’s gone through a stage in their life where they’ve been misunderstood. The same is true for Ursula, she’s done some crazy stuff, but where did that come from, where did she get these ideas, why did she make these choices?”
“I think that’s going to be really interesting to find out because even in her Disney version she is still multilayered, but we’re going to really show you where she came from, and I think that’s really interesting.”
Elliotte is particularly excited about portraying a character that’s seen as an LGBTQ+ icon, “The original character was based on Divine, quite a prolific drag queen in the community, and I think that gives her extra layers as well. She encompasses so much, and I think it’s great, I’m queer, so I definitely relate to that side of her.”
“I think that’s what we need in musical theatre; seeing the diversity of people, and then hopefully, we’ll get more of a diverse crowd coming to the theatre and being involved in this world.”
Ursula has turned into something of a dream role, “I feel like apart from not being able to do magic we’re very similar….and also the killing people stuff, I don’t do that! But apart from that we are almost one and the same,” Elliotte laughs.
Playing a sea witch with tentacles comes with some perks, “I absolutely adore my costume,” says Elliotte, “it’s very impressive, although it’s definitely a workout for me, my back is feeling stronger from this last two weeks. I almost just want my tentacles around me at all times, they are very sexy, which is very me, and very Ursula!”
Elliotte’s costume isn’t the only spectacle to behold in Unfortunate, “all the costumes are amazing, like really beautiful, but also quite funny and cheeky. A lot of these characters are animals and the costume designer has done an amazing interpretation of them, especially of Scuttle. You’ll see. I’ll put it this way, it’s almost something you can imagine Harry Styles wearing to the Met Gala!”
Joining the Fat Rascal Theatre company has been a thrill for Elliotte, “It’s like we’re all a family already, from the first table read we just felt super connected. They’re so welcoming, it was very easy to just come in and start working with everyone. We have check-ins every day to talk about how we are feeling, I think it shows just how much they care about performers as people.”
Elliotte has performed at festivals, such as Latitude, as a singer, so is excited to see what it’s like taking a theatre production to Underbelly, “I’m really interested to see what it’s like, I’m hoping that we get really excitable audiences and one that’s interested in giving a little back and forth, this show is a cabaret, it’s a spectacle and it’s a feel good show that really makes you laugh. So, I hope people feel really comfortable to express themselves as well. Not too much, but enough.”
It’s clear that Elliotte is enjoying every second of being part of Unfortunate, “We’re having so much fun and laughing a lot! This show is good nostalgia for people that are maybe 35 to 40 who will definitely remember The Little Mermaid as a child, but also If you like good music, wonderful performances, and you really like to laugh and feel joy, this is the show for you…it’s also just a little bit naughty!” laughs Elliotte, “I can’t wait to share Ursula with audiences this summer at Underbelly.”
Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch, starring Elliotte Williams- N’Dure as Ursula, is at Underbelly Festival Earls Court 21st June – 16th July, at the Edinburgh Fringe 4th – 29th August and then tours throughout September.