Unfortunate sees Ursula's backstory comes to light in fierce fashion at Newcastle's Theatre Royal

Shawna Hamic as Ursula, with cast and ensemble, in Unfortunate
-Credit: (Image: Pamela Raith Photography)

Unfortunate - the critically acclaimed smash hit parody musical - has come to town, and I went to watch on opening night. The reimagined Disney parody takes us back in time to explore The Little Mermaid's iconic villain, or so we have been told to perceive. Following success of other backstories, such as Cruella and Maleficent, Ursula's story too paints her in an entirely new light, flipping the classic fairy-tale on its head.

After selling out at the Edinburgh Fringe festival in 2019, and touring across the UK in a scaled up version since, the hit performance starring Shawna Hamic (Orange is the New Black) as Ursula and River Medway (RuPaul's Drag Race UK) as Ariel, promises things are going to get wet!

Audiences can expect to hear the Disney diva herself, Ursula, give her take on what really occurred all those years ago under the sea. Dubbed the 'year's hottest night out', the musical- featuring an original pop soundtrack by Robyn Grant, Daniel Foxx and Tim Gilvin -and filthy humour- is a tell-all-tale where the queer queen spill's all.

I visited on opening night to a packed-out Theatre Royal, unaware of what completely to expect, but from the first scene Shawna had the audience in awe, and in stitches. Ursula was quick, witty, and clever.

Without revealing too much of the plot, we find at the core lies a younger Ursula who is misunderstood in love, and watch the consequences of others actions unfold before her eyes until we are reacquainted with the familiar 'evil' witch 20 years later.

But far from one dimensional, Hamic delivers both tongue-in-cheek one liners and emotional monologues. Her scenes with Thomas Lowe, who plays Triton, especially were captivating. The pair's complementing singing voices and charisma brought the story to life.

Shawna Hamic, Ursula, and Thomas Lowe, Triton, in Unfortunate
Shawna Hamic, Ursula, and Thomas Lowe, Triton, in Unfortunate -Credit:Pamela Raith Photography

Made up of only six cast members, and four more ensemble - Ursula, Ariel, and the gang certainly had their work cut out for them- and boy did they deliver. Allie Dart in particular, played the roles of Sebastian, Chef, and an eel with such enthusiasm. Her ability to jump between characters and accents seamlessly, even within the same scene to a choreographed original song 'Les Poisson', was brilliant.

The original soundtrack, that combines influences from disco, pop, drag, and classical into a melting pot of playful camp, sat perfectly alongside the colourful neon set and beautifully designed costumes.

River Medway's performance of an Essex 'Towie' Ariel gave a new, older ownership to mermaid. The RuPaul star captivated the audiences with their filthy humour, serving chaotic energy, and there was an infectious sense of fun.

The cast of Unfortunate
The cast of Unfortunate -Credit:Pamela Raith Photography

When Ursula first appeared on our screens in the The Little Mermaid in 1989, she owned the undisputed title of Queen villain of the sea, but beyond that not much was known. A deeper dive revealed her characterisation was inspired by Drag Queen, Divine. However her vilification left for much questions over what not had been explored, hence the musical concept was thereby conceived by Robyn Grant in 2018.

The Queer representation hopefully left audiences satisfied they could reclaim a story worthy of being told. Unfortunate is in Newcastle at the Theatre Royal until July 4, before the tour moves onto Southampton.