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REVIEW: Unfortunate at Birmingham Hippodrome Patrick Studio

The multi-award winning Fat Rascal Theatre company, creators of sell-out hit musicals Buzz and Vulvarine, are back in the second city with Unfortunate - the untold story of Ursula the Sea Witch.

This show is a parody musical, based on the story of the Little Mermaid, and in a Wicked-esque style, details the backstory to one of animations most loved villains. It's a concept I'd not particularly embraced before and, if I'm honest, one which is only going to be one of two things. Brilliant or horrific. Fortunately for the assembled audience, this show was 100% in the 'brilliant' camp.

Taking the basis of the story arc of the Little Mermaid, this production begins with a pre-Disney introduction and travels right through to an end point which explores the tale's aftermath in greater detail than the 1989 big screen movie ever did. We see Ursula go from a newbie, trying to fit in with societies norm's, to a self professed demi-God who falls in love herself, interwoven with some outstanding acting and some astonishing vocals.

Robyn Grant, Fat Rascal's Artistic Director, takes on the role of Ursula and delivers her character with all the sass, sexiness and authority that Pat Carroll did 30 years ago. The villain is larger than life and Grant's performance equalled that, with just enough 'Disney' to give context, but with a good amount of individuality to stop her interpretation becoming a tribute act.

Similarly, Katie Wells took Ariel from one of animations most recognisable red-head's and turned her into a slightly dim Essex girl with such precision it pushed boundaries but stayed just on the right side of 'wtf'. Supported by her Prince Eric (Jamie Mawson) the duo gave us almost none-stop innuendo and real belly laughs for just under 90 minutes.

I can't stress enough just how brilliant this production is - and this theatre group are. By the same token, Unfortunate really feels like it needs to be bigger than it is. With a comparatively simple set, amazing costumes and a cast of just 5 people, this feels like it could be a near the knuckle, lavishly produced West End staple. It's hilarious, raunchy, loud and vocally strong - and, most importantly, it's hopefully a clear sign of more shows of a similar style being toured around the UK, because we're absolutely ready for it.

The Patrick Studio is a veritable hotbed of outstanding new writing and amazing experimental theatre. Almost like the Edinburgh Fringe has arrived in Birmingham it's a credit to the theatre that they continue to push full seasons of new and emerging talent rather than resting their laurels on West End transfer's galore. 2020 is a huge year in the main auditorium but it's also a big year in this space too - a tradition that will undoubtably continue long into the future.

Unfortunate plays at The Patrick Studio at Birmingham Hippodrome until Sunday 22nd December. For more information or to get your tickets, head to birminghamhippodrome.com.

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