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A fabulous night of fun with a strong message

Updated: 4 days ago

Review: Unfortunate at New Theatre, Cardiff

Unfortunate: The Untold Story Of Ursula The Sea Witch opened to a lively and excited audience at the New Theatre last night (Tuesday 7 May), keen to hear the ‘true’ story of Ursula The Sea Witch.

Ursula (Shawna Hamic) is a smart young girl from a poor family.  She meets and befriends a young Prince Triton (Thomas Lowe) who thinks she’s pretty smart. They grow up together, she’s clever, him not so much, but he’s fabulous and a Prince anyway. Who needs brains?

His father decrees that as he is soon to be 18, he must choose a bride at his ‘Buthday Ball’.  Prince Triton already knows who he wants to spend his life with, a smart young woman he’s known for a long time.  However, she’s the daughter of a window cleaner, an Octowoman, and not one of the society women he’s expected to marry.

The night of the ball arrives, and all of the beautiful women are there.  His father waits expectantly for him to choose his bride, when he gets wind of his son’s plan to marry Ursula and make her his future Queen.  There’s no way he’s going to allow that to happen and plots her downfall.  A tragic incident follows, not for the faint-hearted sea cucumber lovers in the audience.  Ursula is framed for the crime and is banished to the dark waters.

Twenty years later we are taken to the dark waters to meet the creatures that live there, those that didn’t make it to Disney, and here is the Prince, now a King. He’s come to see Ursula, a single mother to two gay eels, as he needs her help with his daughter Ariel (River Medway).

He wants her to follow in his footsteps but she’s not the brightest mermaid in the sea. She’s obsessed with the world above the water. Ursula plans to teach him and Ariel a lesson. Will Ariel get all she wants from life? Can Ursula give her the authentic experience of a human woman? Will Ursula get her revenge for her banishment?

The show is loud and colourful and lots and lots of fun.  It’s raucous and funny, leaving you in no doubt who the real Queen is here. 

Ursula teaches us the importance of female role models in the life of a young woman, how they shouldn’t be brought up to just be a wife.

The characters in drag, and the fun they bring makes the show a real joy to watch. The parody of the power ballad almost had us in tears, of laughter. 

The themes of the show are female empowerment, the rise of the underdog, and how being clever and not fitting the norms of society is perfectly fine. Different worlds can collide and work together. You can be whoever you are and still live a fulfilled life, without the need to fit in. It’s a strong message that gave us a lot to think about.

The puppetry (designed by Abby Clarke, who also designed the fabulous costumes and sets) is a delight. There’s a lot of sending up the ideal world of Disney and how the beautiful people succeed there without much more than a title and good hair.

Here we find life’s underdogs, pushing back against the norms and spelling it out clearly.  You can be whoever you want to be, and you can dance and be fabulous while you do it.

Ursula, the ultimate evil character had a back story too, she wasn’t always the villainous Octowoman she’s been made out to be.

A brilliantly fun show with a strong message to us all, played out alongside great music and songs that made us weep tears of joy. Put on your dancing shoes for a fabulous night of fun.


Written by Robyn Grant (who also directs) and Daniel Foxx, with music, arrangements and orchestrations by Tim Gilvin, Unfortunate: The Untold Story Of Ursula The Sea Witch plays at New Theatre, Cardiff until Saturday (11 May). If you're going to tomorrow (Thursday) evening's performance, you get the bonus of a Q&A session with members of the company afterwards. You can book tickets for all performances online here or through the box office on 0343 310 0041.

Review by Helen Byrne

Photos (taken with permission) by Helen Byrne

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