Unfortunate – Underbelly

Books & Lyrics by Robyn Grant & Daniel Foxx

Music by Tim Gilvin

Directed by Robyn Grant

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Wicked witches, Cruel Stepmothers, Puppy-Skinners, Orphan-nappers,

The villainous Divas of Disney have a lot to answer for, but one, more than any, has ruled these Queens and pushed her way into the Queer mainstream world.

Please, do not let the cute little puppets or source material fool you – Unfortunate may boast a series of striking visuals and colours, but beneath all those scales and sequins, it is filth. Utterly depraved filth, and the soiling of an animated renaissance classic.

And we are here for every foul, raunchy, and X-rated moment of it.

The untold story of the Sea Witch, originally voiced by the legendary Pat Carroll who recently passed, Unfortunate spins the 1989 animated Disney film The Little Mermaid on its head and re-tells aspects of the story from the point of view of the antagonist – the iconic Ursula, the purple, octopod woman who only stood for one thing: overthrowing the patriarchy. And being fabulous.

Returning to the role this evening, writer, and director Robyn Grant steps in for Elliotte Williams-N’Dure. And while N’Dure has taken to the role swimmingly, it really is a treat to watch Grant take the mantle back for an evening. Sass, crass, and with plenty of associative qualities, Grant’s Ursula builds upon the original character – infusing all that cruel, nasty, and seductive moments her cartoon counterpart couldn’t get away with.

Also returning, though the company would be insane to lose her, Allie Dart channels disgustingly boundless energy through the cast – slipping between multiple ensemble roles, integral to the story. From the slithering Flotsam to the Jamaican, via Donegal, crab Sebastian and into the sultry, sensually seductive Vanessa, morphing her physicality and superb vocals accordingly.                                                                                                                                       

Commander-in-chief, supreme ruler of the seas, and emotionally crippled father, George Whitty’s Triton is as facile as he is intimidating, but with a belter of a voice to (deservingly) momentarily rob the spotlight. The onstage chemistry with Grant charges the characters and often aids in setting the mood with Douglas Kuhrt’s lighting design.

And under this beautiful briny sea, a plethora of songwriting pieces stand-up to the original films, Grant and Daniel Foxx creating some spellbindingly catchy tunes, comedic numbers and even a couple of power ballads to rival the magnificence of Howard Ashman. From the titular Unfortunate to the We Didn’t Make It To Disney, Tim Gilvin’s score ripples some of the influences from 1989, but just separated enough to avoid the lawyers.

But we have a cautionary warning to this tale. Should you sit in the front row, the cast and crew are not liable for the state of arousal you may depart in. Nor are they liable for the dry-cleaning expenses. Unfortunate, since it’s previous 2019 Fringe appearance, has increased the variety of and quality of puppetry, somehow becoming an even tighter production. Major props to both Miracle Chance’s Ariel and Jamie Mawson’s Eric for their interaction with the puppetry, and their over-the-top performances garnering the largest laughs.

No one leaves dismal – well, except those Poor Unfortunate Souls left begging outside the door. With nowhere else to turn, they loiter in the doorway, listening to the cackles, sniggers, and occasional moments of genuine sincerity and guttural rally cries against repression. 

It’s wicked, it’s scintillating, it’s contemporary, but above all – it’s Nasty.  

Scintillating, Creative, Nasty

Unfortunate runs at the Underbelly until August 29th,

Tickets for which may be obtained here.


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