The sea witch Ursula, from Disney’s The Little Mermaid is one of the most iconic Disney villains of all time. Powerful and power-hungry, she’s beloved by many despite meaning to be the character you are rooting to die. But of course, when your adversary is a bratty, selfish and naive mermaid, who can blame her for being fed up and jagged?
As we’ve seen with Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty and Cruella from 101 Dalmatians, both of whom have been given backstories as to why they’re seen as evil, it was only time until Ursula was given her dues and chance to tell her side of the story. Normally, we know that means she was hurt by the original hero of the tale and so enacts revenge, which let’s face it – can be quite a tiresome storyline. As I’ve said before – what’s wrong with the witches just being bitches? Anyway, Fat Rascal Theatre have brought Ursula up from the deep sea to the stage where she can talk us through what really happened in the lead up to and aftermath of that fateful night she was smote by a ship.
This absolutely hilarious, very raunchy and batshit crazy musical parody walks and talks (or swims and sings) us through the
tail tale we know so well, giving us a glimpse into the what ifs – or the true story, however you like it to be. Cue more inter species copulating than just the bizarreness of a mermaid and human falling in love, a different side to the grumpy, strict daddy Triton we grew up with, an even more annoying and vapid Ariel than the one too many young girls dream of being, and plenty of filthy and funny references to everything from dicks to sea spunk and from fluid sexuality to the name-dropping of pop stars.
The music dances on the very thin borderline between copyright infringement and irreverent originality, with extremely subtle changes in lyrics and melodies to not anger Disney, who I’m sure probably did not give the green flag to this show being allowed. There’s even a song called We Didn’t Make It to Disney, performed by the ugly, bad to the bone sea creatures poking fun at the media and toy titan’s reputation. However, much of it is still just as catchy and just as enjoyable as the legendary soundtrack yet definitely not suitable for children or anyone who is easily offended.
The talented cast of just six (normally seven) were rushed off their
fins feet as they each played several characters throughout the show, often changing from portraying a fish to a seagull or from a dead “sea cucumber” (yes, really) to a sailor within about 30 seconds and doing so differently from their previous character, exercising a broad range of acting, dancing and singing skills as they do. Allie Dart, who stood in as main character Ursula for the opening show at The Lowry, was saucier and more emotional than the sea witch we know and love but just as sassy and just as power-mad as always and props should definitely be given to her for stepping in at the last minute.
In addition, George Whitty as Triton had ridiculously impressive vocal chops and Jack Gray and Jamie Mawson who portrayed Scuttle and Eric respectively as well as “gay eels” Flotsam and Jetsam were equally camp and comedic. Rounding off the cast were Miracle Chance as Ariel – who perhaps had the biggest job of being a true 360 parody of her character, and Danni Payne as Irish Sebastian and Vanessa, whose latter character had to be a split embodiment of sounding like Ariel whilst acting like Ursula. Though maybe they should change the promotional images to reflect the current actresses who play Ursula…
Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch is a story that many will be glad is finally being told as this Disney villain is allowed her time to shine as the queen of the seas that she’s always dreamed of being. It may humanise this octo-woman as we might have anticipated, but that aside it’s the childless Disney fun us adults need: a thoroughly hysterical, highly entertaining and downright (c)rude show that will only make you root for Ursula more. Because if there’s one thing we can all learn from her, it’s that you have to make things work for yourself when no one else will and when there are dimwitted young tarts in the way, you’ve got to show them who owns the throne.