Underbelly Festival, Earl’s Court, London – until 16 July 2022
Guest reviewer: Ely King
Underbelly Festival is currently home to Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch and promises to be brimming with dark comedy, blue eyeshadow and a myriad double entendres.
As you head towards the auditorium there is a glaring sign warning you: “This is not Disney’s version of events, but Ursula’s side of the story. Not recommended for children.” And I’ve never seen a sign more true.
In the first five minutes there is a hungover Scuttle the Seagull (Jack Gray), seagulls on sticks Lion King-style and those seagulls promptly falling off their sticks. Whether this is intentional or not is unknown, but it certainly adds comedic value in the opener.
Ursula, played by Elliotte Williams-N’Dure, makes her entrance shortly after in an entrance of pure grandeur. Williams-N’Dure looks iconic in a full leather ensemble (tentacles included). Her look also features platform docs, her signature striking blue eyeshadow, matching icy white locs and brows and a stripe of purple locs to tie the whole thing together. Ursula is one badass villain and it’s great to see her outfit finally show that.
Describing the upcoming story as ‘filled with sex, sorcery and whatever else they put on the website’, Williams-N’Dure reminds the audience that this is a parody, completely unafraid of mocking the story, themselves, and even the audience.
Completing the cast are George Whitty as Triton, Jamie Mawson as Eric, Allie Dart as Sebastian and Miracle Chance as Ariel. However, everyone other than Elliott’s performs multiple roles throughout the show from sailors to sea cucumbers and even the iconic Flotsam and Jetsam.
Whilst the show is expected to be uproarious fun, and other audience members seemed to be having such that, I found the experience to be somewhat lacking.
A lot of this, however, can be down to the sound issues throughout the entirety of the show. From being too low, too loud, or not even on at all, the sound quality wasn’t the best which then meant I probably missed a significant amount of dialogue that made some of the scenes and dancing make sense. There is no need for the three-piece band to be amplified in such a small stage. Oddly enough, the times where the mics weren’t on were the times where I could understand the actors clearly. With more practice and sound balancing, hopefully a lot more of their jokes will land.
The show started off strong, detailing how Ursula won the affections of soon-to-be King Triton, but the storyline lost all momentum by the end of the first half, following the stereotypical ‘nice guy turns villain by having their heart broken’ trope. The second half though makes up for it and more. The cast turn the dials up to 11 and truly let loose into what can only be explained as unhinged hysteria.
I may not have completely understood what was going on, but the sight of Triton and Ursula making out messily was enough to draw a chuckle out of anyone.
Throughout the production Ursula gave me more and more Mama Morton vibes as the show went on, with some songs hinting to the well known track ‘Mama Knows Best.’
The highlights of the track list are ‘We Didn’t Make It To Disney’ and tongue-in cheek commentary in Disney’s lack of diversity and ‘To Be King’ a solo ballad from Triton. The best song of the show has to be ‘Female Role Models’ hands down. This track lets Ursula shine in all the ways she deserves.
Whilst I went in prepared for dark comedy, I was not prepared for the sheer amount of innuendos, sex and fat jokes. Whilst some were funny, a lot missed the mark and felt shoehorned in. Again, this could have been down to the sound though. I would definitely give it a second chance to find out.
The finale featured a twerking Ursula which stole the show for me and is not something I’ll forget anytime soon.
Even though it wasn’t a smash-hit for me personally, I can imagine going in a group of friends would be a lot more enjoyable than attending solo myself. Some shows are just meant to be experienced in bigger numbers and I think this is one of those.
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