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Written By:

Ed Fortune
Daniel Foxx

Daniel Foxx is a rising star in the British comedy scene, best known for his short comedy skits on social media and phenomenally sharp wit. When he’s not on TikTok, BBC One, or other TV screens, he’s writing musicals. We caught up with him to talk about The Little Mermaid parody, Unfortunate, currently on at the Southwark Playhouse Elephant until the middle of February 2024.

STARBURST: How would you explain Unfortunate to an elderly relative who loves cartoon fairy tales but has never heard of Wicked?

Daniel Foxx: I’d say, “Grandma, you know how the best character in all those cartoon fairy tales you watch is ALWAYS the big, glamorous camp villain?”. And she’d say, “Yes! I notice they’re always the best part, but we never get enough of them!” And I’d say, “well, we agree, so we made a musical that fixes that” and she’d say, “Wow, slay!”.

We’ve basically taken an icon and given her the stage time she deserves and the chance to tell her side of the story in all its rude, lewd, vivacious glory.

How different is the new show from the first draft? And how different is it from the show STARBURST saw in Edinburgh 2022?

Oh gosh, so different. The core is the same: it’s Ursula’s story, she is centre stage, and our aim always is a punchy comedy with proper belly laugh jokes. But it’s grown and grown with each production – compared to the first draft in 2019, this show is an extravaganza. Even since 2022, there are a tonne of new songs, new characters, new puppets, and new scenes. This is the biggest and best the show has been – it’s the version we always wanted to make.

How did you end up working with Robyn and Fat Rascal?

I wrote my first play in 2015 and took it to the Edinburgh Fringe. We had a great time, and afterwards we were like, “this could be a good musical, actually”. The producer, Laura Elmes – who is now producing Unfortunate – put me in touch with “a great musical theatre writer she met recently”, Robyn. We fell in love and have been writing together ever since.

What other popular fairy tales/media franchises would you like to see given the Unfortunate treatment?

I’d love to see a really camp and fabulous Darth Vader musical.

You’re best known for short skits on TikTok; what do you find more rewarding: theatre or sketch comedy?

I love them both for different reasons. Making little skits for TikTok and Instagram is freeing because it’s just playing about in front of a camera in my kitchen and putting a video out that same evening. Putting on a musical is obviously a much more involved process, but I love working in a group with Robyn and Tim Gilvin, our composer. Nothing compares with sitting in the audience of something you’ve written and hearing a live audience laugh.

Your show at 2023’s Edinburgh Fringe, Villain, felt very personal and raw in some places. Is that typical of your approach to comedy?

Yes, I like it when you leave a comedy show feeling like you actually know the performer. I love comedians like Simon Amstell, Mae Martin, and Tig Notaro, where you obviously laugh a lot but also learn a little something about their lives.

What’s your favourite moment in Unfortunate?

Well, Robyn’s already said “Suckin on You”, our new ’80s power-ballad masterpiece, so I’ll go for the top of Act 2: there’s a scene between the French Chef and Sebastian the Crab, both of whom are played by Allie Dart. Watching her sprinting around, pulling off the quick changes, is hysterical.

What’s the most important thing about musical theatre?

Bops. Big, glorious bangers that make you go, “oh my god, what a song”.

What can we see you in next?

We’ve got an original musical in the works, telling the story of Medusa. In the meantime, I’m taking my standup show Villain around the UK in 2024 – so either find me in a venue somewhere, or on Instagram, as always!

UNFORTUNATE The Untold Story Of Ursula The Sea Witch – A Musical Parody can be found at the Southwark Playhouse Elephant until February 17th 2024.  You can book tickets here. 

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