The Unfortunate | National Tour | Review

The Unfortunate

The Hawth, Crawley

1st / 2nd April 2024

Be prepared to have your childhood memories altered for life.

We all love a Disney villain, and whilst there is a current trend to tell to tell their side of the story you won’t find a more whacky, camp and utterly bonkers version as ‘The Unfortunate’, a retelling of the ‘The Little Mermaid’ from the perspective of Ursula the Seawitch!

Growing up, Ursula was one of the most terrifying of all childhood villains. Predictably we learn she has a backstory of being bullied, thwarted in love and is ultimately framed for a murder she didn’t commit and therefore banished. Not wonder she is a little bit…. tetchy.

This could have been a compelling story for children, however, this production is far from that. It’s a musical parody with plenty of profanities, innuendo and naughty bits, not for the faint hearted. Starting life pre lockdown at the Edinburgh Fringe, the show has evolved to this full length musical. It is a fast moving, absolutely chaotic and flamboyant production.

Shawna Hamic plays the tentacled protagonist to perfection, she is sassy, strong and empowering, encapsulating the essence of queer icon Ursula. River Medway plays a stunning Ariel (speechless woman) hilariously, who knew that Ariel has a broad Essex accent. Hats off go to Allie Dart and Jack Gray who play several roles between them needing the bulk of the speedy costume changes (Dart plays two roles in the course of one song – outstanding!).  

It is unfortunate (no pun intended) that the problem with the show is the sound, many of the words and in particular lyrics, which I am sure are very funny, are completely incomprehensible, particularly the ensemble numbers in the first act. Later on, it gets better when there are more solos / duets.  Medway is the clearest by far and was rewarded with a warm reception and laughter from the audience. Also less is more, not every character needs to be larger than life some characters need more depth even in the context of this wild show to give contrast.

I adore seeing something new and fresh on stage and this is it. More at home in fringe festivals and Off-West End it is fabulous to give regional audiences a bit of a wake up call.  They do need to be warned though… I think a few were more than a tad shocked.


Reviewer: Sammi O’Neill

Photos: Pamela Raith