The parody musical of Disney’s Little Mermaid, brazenly comes to The Alhambra where Leo Owen caught the show

THE brainchild of Robyn Grant, Daniel Foxx, and Tim Gilvin, Unfortunate imagines the backstory of Disney’s sea witch, Ursula. From the moment large neon pink eyes glow from the darkness and a voice cries out “f*ck me, it’s good to be back”, the audience knows they are in for a wild ride.

Shawna Hamic, most notable for her work on Orange is the New Black, gives a standout performance as Ursula, clad in a black octopus dress with matching boots and purple dip-dyed hair. The show's deliberate shock value is undeniable, with the first song "Nasty" featuring Hamic’s operatic vocals juxtaposed with explicit lyrics. Originally modelled on iconic drag queen Divine, Ursula is a larger than life sassy stage presence, captivatingly portrayed by Hamic, bringing layers of complexity to the character.

Flashbacks to Ursula’s city of Atlantica upbringing utilising puppetry, explain her banishment and desire for revenge. When Triton’s (Thomas Lowe) father, King Neptune, is horrified by his son’s true love, he frames Ursula for murder. Fast-forward twenty years and Trident has fathered seven children while Ursula continues to stew.

Abby Clarke's main backdrop is reminiscent of a ship, albeit a camp one, with turquoise lit-up staircases either side of a centralised hole leading to an upper deck, where live musicians play. Clarke's inventive use of neon painted sea creature puppets controlled by actors on stage adds a whimsical and fantastical element to the production, creating a visual feast for the audience. Adam King’s pink lighting and smoke effects build on this magical atmosphere.

The very glam rock portrayal of King Neptune and Triton, clad in metallic blue glitzy leggings and silver glittery ankle boots, brings a sense of fun and flamboyance to the characters. Triton and Ursula’s duet “Sucking On You”, expressing their fledgling feelings, matches these costumes with a complementary glam rock feel, made all the more entertaining to watch by Melody Sinclair’s amusing choreography.

Although the show lacks ear worms, Grant and Foxx write some genuinely funny dialogue, describing Atlantica as a “happy intersection between the Barbie movie and the Hitler Youth” and including topical gags. Triton’s graveside solo mourning Kirsty, the sea cucumber is amusingly performed too but yet another musical number easily forgotten. It’s "Le Poisson" sang by Allie Dart as the prince's cook, and taken straight from the original Disney film, that is the most accomplished performance, a real comical highlight. Dart's strong vocals and ability to effortlessly switch between roles showcase her versatility. River Medway, known for RuPaul's Drag Race, plays Ariel, delivering a crude rendition of "I want to be where the boys with dicks are".

From its origins at the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe to being nominated Best Musical Theatre Book Writing 2020 at the Writers Award nominations, Unfortunate has evolved, adding fresh musical numbers mixing rock, disco, pop and classical genres. An entertaining adult take on a classic children’s story, focussing on the characters “who didn’t make it to Disney”, this saucy show visually pops but musical numbers are easily forgettable and vocals even more so. That said, Unfortunate, has its tongue stapled to its cheek, is joyous high-energy escapism, and empowering to watch.

Unfortunate showed at The Alhambra 4th-6th April before continuing its tour of the UK: