unfortunate review

Review: Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch

Review: Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch

“It’s fun. Pure, unaltered fun. Well, maybe not so pure after all. But fun. Go”


Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch is not your typical Disney show. Riding the wave of the two sides of the same coin storylines alongside hits like Maleficent and Wicked, it is tongue-in-cheek, super camp and So. Much. Fun.  

The story is wonderfully uplifting: Ursula and Triton used to be teenage sweethearts but their love was star-crossed. Now in the exile among the Dark Waters, Ursula is planning to come back to Atlantica to teach Ariel a lesson – and introduce her to a real female role model. Unfortunately, as we know from the Disney classic, Ariel falls for a human… 

There’s not much nuance in the story but was never meant to be. Some minor issues haunt the timing of the plot, as expected when developing an Edinburgh comedy into a two-hour-long show, but these are not major and definitely do not take away anything from the overall enjoyment, especially when the execution is on point across the board: the set is very visually attractive, and so is puppetry – quite a feat indeed for a fringe touring show. The choreography requires a lot of physical fitness from actors, and there’s even a live on-stage band.  

The cast is very strong. George Whitty (Triton) has an absolutely stunning tenor. Elliotte Williams-N’Dure as Ursula is perfectly confident and sassy, yet deeply sympathetic. Miracle Chance is a genuinely funny Ariel. Jamie Mawson makes his Eric so absurdly over the top it’s hilarious. Allie Dart, credited as Sebastian but impersonating a good many roles (including Ursula’s alter-ego Vanessa) is a real stand-out: her acts are so different you may as well believe she has a twin sister. Or three.  

Quite unusually for a fringe musical, the songs actually *work*. They’re not just meaningless blurbs of melodies thrown carelessly in between dialogues, but actually build the world, reveal the emotions of characters and push the plot forward. All the traditional elements of musical theatre are there: a grand 11-o’clock number, triumphant finale, a memorable opening number, a thrilling second act opener and a brilliant “I want” song dramatically belted out by Whitty – and none feels forced or out of place. Great are also those numbers that parody Disney: a consent-matters version of Kiss the Girl and a completely absurd twist on Part of Your World are natural crowd-pleasers.

The biggest downside perhaps is sound – maybe a matter of the unusual festival venue or the equipment, either way it was sometimes exceedingly difficult to figure out the lyrics. It also most definitely is not a family-friendly production, with crude jokes galore.  

All in all – it’s fun. Pure, unaltered fun. Well, maybe not so pure after all. But fun. Go.  

Underbelly Festival, until 16 July