ComedyMusicalNorth WestReview

Unfortunate – The Lowry, Salford

Reviewer: Rebecca Cohen

Book, lyrics and Director: Robyn Grant

You are transported under the sea in the untold story of Ursula the Sea Witch – Unfortunate – currently showing at the perfect waterside venue, The Lowry. But rather than thingamabobs, expect brashness, expect expletives galore, expect queer references and expect queen power. This is a parody retelling that will leave you never seeing The Little Mermaid in the same light again.

This show, directed by Robyn Grant (also book and lyrics), is similar to Six, gaining its popularity and fanbase from its time at the Edinburgh Fringe. And like Wicked, it gives a voice to the baddies, the one we’ve been trained to hate – it shows that not all is always as it seems. It’s silly, it’s bright and it seamlessly moves between drag, disco, pop and classical musical theatre.

At the core of the production is Orange is the New Black’s Shawna Hamic as the protagonist herself. Her presence on the stage is big, she leads the show with ease and she truly tantalises with those tentacles. She begins telling her angle of the cherished Disney classic, showing how there’s always two sides to any story. And instead of casting herself as a villain, Ursula lets us into part of her world – a world where there’s a love affair with Triton (Thomas Lowe) where she’s top of the class (excelling in areas requiring fine print) and where she’s banished to a place with the ‘ugly’ characters who ‘didn’t make it to Disney’. She celebrates her individualism and proudly reminds us all ‘if a man had made the deal like the mermaid girl and me, would you cast him as the villain? No! He’d get an OBE’.

This kind of show is always a fun night out, offering alternative, laugh out loud and often crude perspectives that are crowd-pleasing for adult audiences. The cast are great – all offering unique performances (but not always show-stopping vocals!). Allie Dart as Sebastian and other roles is an absolute talent, bringing probably the second most solid performance of the night, next to Ursula herself. River Medway (of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK fame) plays an alternative and amusing Ariel, stripping her of any innocence you may have once perceived her to have and Lowe is a fabulously glitzy and watchable Triton – providing some great stand-out moments in the show. The set and staging is effective and the homemade touches, like some of the puppetry fishes, give it a refreshing and down to earth feel that serve as a constant reminder that this isn’t a show to be taken too seriously.

While fun and most definitely filthy, it ispredictably shallow and would have even more impact if condensed. The soundtrack too isn’t one you are going to have on repeat – bar Unfortunate, Where the Dicks Are (how they get away with this one is a miracle!) and We Didn’t Make It To Disney, the other numbers are musically forgettable (but often visually brought to life with graphic and phallic humour). But that said, it does what it says on the tin, it’s a parody – it takes the mick of Disney and of musical theatre and it does it well.

It’s too long for what it is, it’s not a mind-blowing piece of theatre and it can feel repetitive at times – but it is making waves on the musical theatre scene, it definitely has laugh-out-loud moments and for that, it’s sea-riously worth a watch.

Runs until 2 March 2024

The Reviews Hub Score

Filthy fun!

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