Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2022 Theatre Review: Unfortunate – The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch (Underbelly) ★★★1/2

Ursula is here to spill the tea on what really went on under the sea. Splash-landing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, this down and dirty Disney parody is full of show-stopping songs, magical puppets and delightfully filthy humour.

Elliotte Williams-N’Dure as Ursula. Photo credit: Underbelly.

Following in the footsteps of Cruella and Elphaba, everyone’s favourite plus-size octo-villain is setting the record straight, and sharing her version of events. Starting twenty years before The Little Mermaid, Unfortunate clarifies the reason Ursula “went bad”, and paints other characters in a somewhat less charitable light.

The cast is expertly led by Elliotte Williams-N’Dure in the title role, setting the scene with her strong, sultry voice and sexually charged characterisation. On “Nasty” and “Unfortunate” her vocals are sublime, and no funny aside or reference is missed. Likewise, George Whitty is exceptional as Triton, particularly on his solo “To Be King”. The other songs are fun, witty and thoroughly well sung, with noteworthy performances from Danni Payne as Ariel and Ali Dart as Sebastian.

Ali Dart and Miracle Chance. Photo credit: Underbelly.

The parody elements are well-written and executed, particularly the references to Disney’s lack of diversity, and the paucity of LGBTQ+ characters or those not deemed attractive. It does, however, feel that this condensed version (edited to 70 minutes for the festival) loses something, and at times the production lacks pace. In this particular performance, the sound balance seemed out of kilter, with the cast being drowned out during many of the ensemble numbers, meaning a lot of the comic lines were not heard.

With expert staging by Robyn Grant, stunning costumes by Cory Ship and brilliant puppets by Abby Clarke and Hugh Purves, this certainly looks and feels like a West End production. For anyone with a love of campy, irreverent humour and superb singing, Unfortunate is a dazzling musical and a whole lot of fun.

By Deborah Klayman

Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch plays at Underbelly, Edinburgh until 28th August 2022.

Click here for tickets and more info.

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