FLEA! leaps into action

Pictures by Rob Jayne

With just under two weeks to go, it’s all systems go for UkuleleOpera’s FLEA!, the circus-themed community theatre production people are just itching to see.

The show, which involves a cast of more than 100 local people, with a team of professionals at the helm, is being performed at Bridport Electric Palace from 23 – 27 May.

“It’s all coming together,” said the plays writer, musician Andrew Dickson, who won European Composer of the Year Award for his score for the 1988 Mike Leigh film, High Hopes.

“It’s a huge undertaking which has got bigger by the minute, partly because it’s been so inclusive and we’ve said ‘yes’ to everyone.

“There have been lots of individual elements and it’s great to be bringing them all together.”

Andrew Dickson was at the forefront of the Community Play movement as part of the Colway Theatre Trust, writing the music for many productions, including The Poor Man’s Friend at Bridport in 1981 and five community plays at Dorchester.

Rehearsals for FLEA! have been going on since February in various locations around the town, with the first full rehearsal taking place at the leisure centre last week. Now, the show is being polished at the art deco Palace, the auditorium being transformed into an old fashioned circus ring for the production.

The producer, Sally Vaughan, who came up with the original idea for the show, said: “There’s such a great atmosphere at rehearsals, especially now that the show is really coming together… excitement, anticipation and a great sense of camaraderie.

“The backstage teams are working equally hard on costume and set and the music is sounding better and better as each rehearsal goes by. Now is the time when we start to see all the bits of the jigsaw fit and the hours of preparation pay off.”

Hester Goodman from the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain plays the lead role of Madame Celine, the devious and exotic, ukulele-hating, ringmistress of a flea circus.

From small beginnings, the show, directed by Niki McCretton, is huge, with fantastic stage sets, marvellous costumes and music from start to finish.

Said Sally: “It’s an absurd and whacky story with something for everyone – not just ukulele players. The music is original and very beautiful and visually it promises to be vivid and quite a spectacle.”

There are six performances, including three matinees, of FLEA! at Bridport Electric Palace from 23- 27 May. Evening shows have already sold out – for more information and to book tickets, visit or visit Bridport Tourist Information Centre.UkuleleOpera has been funded by Bridport Electric Palace, Arts Council England, West Dorset District Council and Bridport Town Council.