After three years in the pipeline, tickets are now on sale for UkuleleOpera’s FLEA!, a spectacular community theatre production being staged at Bridport Electric Palace on 23-27 May.
This unique, musical show has been written by award-winning composer Andrew Dickson, the man behind the scores of many Mike Leigh films. He won the European Composer Award for the 1988 film High Hopes.
Hester Goodman from the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain will play the lead role of Madame Celine, the devious and exotic ringmistress of a flea circus.
Producer Sally Vaughan describes the production as ‘a musical maelstrom of serious fun and absurdist humour for audiences of all ages.’
From small beginnings, the show is set to be huge, with fantastic stage sets, marvellous costumes and music from start to finish. FLEA! is artist-led but with local people at its heart.
Directed by Niki McCretton, the show at Bridport Electric Palace will feature a cast of more than 100 local people, including actors, singers, dancers, musicians – and dogs – and is suitable for families and people of all ages.
Sally, a former primary school teacher, came up with the original idea when she was teaching ukulele and involved in community group performance. She was inspired by the word ‘ukulele’ which means ‘jumping flea’ in Hawaiian, because the fingers are said to look like little fleas jumping when they pluck the strings.
She says: “Before long, the whole idea had grown into a story about a flea circus with dancers and acrobats and singing and music and even dogs. 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.”
Andrew Dickson has been 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.
“When I came to Bridport in 1981, within a month I knew most of the population through working on the community play,” he says. “It was like being part of a big family and this is how FLEA! feels.”
He stresses that, despite its UkuleleOpera title, the show will ‘not be at all grand’.
“The term UkuleleOpera I like because it’s paradoxical – ‘opera’ being big and ‘ukulele’ being small. And my main justification for doing it is fun.”
Hester Goodman is originally from South Devon, but has spent most of her adult life in London until she moved to Bridport three years ago.
“I got to know Sally when I first moved here and she and Andrew were talking about the idea and asked me if I’d be interested,” Hester says.
“I had a look at the script and heard some of the music and I thought it seemed like a really exciting project to be a part of. It involves lots of people from the community and that’s really exciting.
“I started out as an actress originally so it’s really nice to get back to do some theatrical performing so close to home.”
The stunning art deco auditorium at Bridport Electric Palace will be transformed into a circus ring for the production, with seating for 300 people at each of the six performances.
UkuleleOpera has been funded by Bridport Electric Palace, Arts Council England, West Dorset District Council and Bridport Town Council.
For more information and to book tickets, please visit the event page on this website.