When Fat Rascal Theatre’s Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula The Sea Witch premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2019, I said it was ‘damn near perfection’. Now the comedy musical that takes inspiration from the Little Mermaid returns, and it’s bigger, longer and with even more songs to enjoy.
Those expecting something akin to the Disney version of The Little Mermaid are in for a shock, this is definitely not a musical aimed at children. Sex, swearing and partial nudity mean that there’s all sorts of surprises in store for us when we are taken under the sea.
In a similar way to how Wicked altered our perceptions of the Wicked Witch of the West, Unfortunate turns our attention away from Ariel and on to Ursula, the plus size icon who it turns out has been horribly misunderstood.
Ariel (Miracle Chance) still plays an important role, but in this version she’s not the brightest shell on the beach…far from it in fact. Ursula, cast out of Atlantica for a crime she didn’t commit, is brought back into the fold by former lover, King Triton (George Whitty) not to hurt Ariel, but to help her.
Turns out Disney has been lying to us all, and Ursula is actually a hero…well according to this hilarious musical at least. Robyn Grant, Daniel Foxx and Tim Gilvin, who collectively are responsible for book, music and lyrics have created a wonderful score. The songs are catchy, full of fun and often come with just the slightest of nods to the film that inspired it all.
Unfortunate may be a comedy musical, but it comes with some serious messages; body image and the judgement of others top of the list, but lines about a woman having rights over her own body were felt even more acutely this weekend. This is one of the reasons Fat Rascal Theatre have become so incredibly popular in recent years; their work allows us to have fun while simultaneously challenging us to think differently about important topics.
In the performance I saw, Robyn Grant who was the original Ursula in 2019 had stepped back into the role to cover for Elliotte Williams- N’Dure. Grant appeared to revel in returning to this iconic character that has been so cleverly reinvented.
Also returning are Allie Munro and Jamie Mawson, a pair of versatile performers who always succeed in delighting the audience. Both are particularly adept at the puppetry elements of the show, which help to bring the underwater world to life against a larger and more impressive set.
This updated version of Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula The Sea Witch improves what was already an incredibly fun musical. Both hilarious and thought provoking, this fringe show continues to ride a wave of success, and perhaps Fat Rascal Theatre have taken yet another step closer to perfection.