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Review: Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch (Underbelly Bristo Square, Edinburgh)

The Little Mermaid is given the parody treatment

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Unfortunate
© Matt Cawrey

A Little Mermaid parody is well overdue, and, with a live-action film on the horizon, it's high time someone finally made a jokey deep-dive into the '90s aquatic adventure. Step forward Fat Rascal Theatre with Unfortunate, a retooling the original story which places the spotlight on the eight-legged antagonist Ursula. Like a mix of Maleficent, Love Island and Game of Thrones, it's a joke-laden romp that will be lapped up by Disney aficionados in droves, though perhaps not the everyday layperson.

There are some blisteringly funny moments (it'd be wrong to expect anything less from Fat Rascal given previous work like Vulvarine) including an excellent riff on the film numbers such as "I Wanna Be Where the Boys with D**ks Are" and "(Just Ask Before You) Kiss the Girl", as well as a jab at how the House of Mouse exacerbates certain body image stereotypes in "We Didn't Make It To Disney". It's a pertinent point, made consistently across the show.

The fresh concept lasts for a solid 40 to 50 minutes before slowly drifting a bit, but it's kept afloat by some solid performances from the multi-roling cast of five – composer, writer and star Robyn Grant makes for a likeable and sassily sardonic Ursula, and her romantic fling with Triton is a novel addition to the old fable. If anything though, the show is upended by the very character it is meant to sideline – Katie Wells has such a hilarious ball as Ariel that she owns every second she's on stage.

Nevertheless, the company are a solid Fringe favourite, and long may this continue – extra plaudits must be given to Abby Clarke's versatile set and puppet design (the two puppets for Flotsam and Jetsam are particularly top-tier), transforming the intimate Underbelly space into a full-blown nautical experience.

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