This is us

About

UkuleleOpera was an artist-led, community theatre project involving the people of Bridport, Dorset and – maybe one day – ukulele communities anywhere. The first of its kind, this project brought together a variety of strands of the community  through the medium of the ukulele, and incorporated a wide range of art forms.

‘Ukulele’ means ‘jumping flea’ (in Hawaiian) and the show told the story of the rise and fall of Madame Celine – the devious and exotic ring mistress of an extraordinary flea circus. ‘FLEA!’ starred Hester Goodman (of The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain) in the lead role as Madame Celine. It brought together a diverse range of professionals and local community participants in the production and performance of an opera ‘la bouffe’ (rough opera).

A musical maelstrom, serious fun, and absurdist humour for audiences of all ages, UkuleleOpera was born in Bridport. Based on an original idea by Sally Vaughan, and written and composed by Andrew Dickson, ‘FLEA!’ was set in no time, no place, and had a vivid and spectacular aesthetic.

Arts Council England funded a Research & Development phase, which took place in November 2014 to develop the script, libretto and to bring together the core creative team. The project then had a public launch in January 2015, followed by an outreach programme, funded by WDDC, which took place in the Spring and Summer of 2015, with a wide variety of community groups (of all ages) around Bridport. There was then a bit of hiatus while we applied for funding to continue the project, and in 2016 we were thrilled when the owners of the Electric Palace generously offered to fund the majority of the project to enable it to happen. We were then successful in getting Arts Council England funding for the remainder alongside West Dorset District Council, Bridport Town Council, Dorset Rural Fund, The Fin Gunn Fund, Bridport Rotary Club and The Stable Pizza & Cider Restaurants.

The show has the potential to be recreated in other towns and communities. This is one of our long term aims, and one of the most exciting things about the project.

By combining the qualities of the ukulele, its sound, ethos and history with other art forms and digital techniques, it became the pivotal instrument of what promised to be an original and timely theatre production. The score of ‘FLEA!’was written for the instrument and provided players with a challenge, beyond the standard repertoire, and changed people’s perceptions of the instrument in the context of a combined arts performance.

Andrew Dickson

Writer / Composer

Composer/writer of FLEA’s score and libretto, multi-instrumentalist, proponent of community theatre, Andrew has directed, acted, composed and performed in many productions over a life-time’s career in theatre and the arts, including 6 Mike Leigh films, 8 community plays, 5 TV documentaries and several ‘Plays for Today’. Winner of three awards including European Composer of the Year (1989). Andrew has lived in Bridport since the early 1980’s.

Sally Vaughan

Producer / Originator

Originator of the idea, research, concept and ethos behind the project. Community-minded ukulele player and educationalist. Currently a Music Teacher (adults and children, community groups, schools and training/team building). Sally has lived in Bridport for 8 years.

Niki McCretton

Director

Director, performer, comedian, puppeteer, circus and physical theatre specialist, Niki is well respected and well known in the local community for her theatrical and community work. She runs national touring theatre company Stuff & Nonsense, and owns the Lyric Theatre in Bridport. A great facilitator! Niki has lived in Bridport for 10 years.

Hester Goodman

Lead Actor

Hester is a performer with the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain (27 years), actress, singer/songwriter and performance artist. A highly experienced, skilled and dedicated artist, and a household name to the worldwide ukulele community, Hester has been a loyal and ardent supporter of the project since its inception. A great role model! Hester has lived in Bridport for 3 years.

Nico Brown

Assistant Director / Musical Director

Director, composer, writer, performer, puppeteer, teacher and multi-instrumentalist, Nico works with children, families and various performers including PJ Harvey. A great communicator of ideas! Nico lives in Ireland but has been a frequent visitor to Bridport for over 20 years.

Anna Golding

Choreographer

Anna is a choreographer for numerous dance groups including Grace & Growl, a company of older dancers, and ‘No Limits’, a community group for the learning and physically disabled adults who will be in the production. Anna collaborates regularly with Andrew Dickson, and was part of the inspiration for UkuleleOpera. A great enabler! Anna has lived in Bridport for 11 years.

Cast and Crew

In order of surname…

THE CHARACTERS

Abadha Bruce (FRET FAIRY)
John Butler (CARLOS)
Kitty Ford (MS P. HOWZATT)
Frankie Golding (VLAD)
Hester Goodman (MADAME CELINE)
Sam Harris (GRUB)
Barry Irvine (LOW EDDIE)
Martin Maudsley (PROF. PP HOWZATT)
Fiona Moir (NENO BELT)
Tamlin Morgan (MIRIAM)

YOU CHORUS

Simon Binns
Fay Boon
Pat Bowditch
Louise Brazier
Paul Burnage
Jess Burns
Peter Burns
Bill Cain
Janet Clayton
Sally Crowther Burnage
Ros Fry
Spike Golding
Lucy Hackett
Neil Harvey
Chris Huxley
Raja Jarrah
Ann Lambert
Mitch Norman
Evie Scott Sentance
Nick Sorenson
Linda Woodhouse

SHOE CHORUS

Pamela Armitage
Alice Armstrong
Margie Barbour
Salud Botella
Joe Burlington
Nara Buesnel
Sophie Creed
Stella Crew
Anna Golding
Diane Harding
Mark Heath
Rafferty Heath
Barbara Probert
Robert Poulton
Dan Sibley
Arturo Webster
Karole Webster
Deborah Winstone

CIRCUS HANDS 

Jude Alderman
Pauline Connor
Barbara Darnley
Eileen Haste
Jemima Morgan
Chris Prideaux
Kate Robertson
Rosie Russell
Melanie Jane Sheppard
Anna Zee

CIRCUS PERFORMERS 

Millie Ashford
Salud Botella
Julio Guarito
Benji Lopez Garcia
Gilberto Lopez Garcia
Sally Saint
Jane Stevenson

THE CLAQUE

Colin Divall
Karen Hunt
Anthony Hurst
Barry Irvine
Angie Porter
Kevin Ryan

FLEA PARADE 

Rebecca Hilton
Sandra Hooker
Pat Jones
Tom Jones
Oliver Kay
Rose Kay
Sally Newman
Chris Savory

TOFFS 

Barry Irvine
Bella Jacobson
Roger Lawrence
Kevin Ryan
Bea Tilley-Wyatt

DOG PEOPLE 

Tracey Allen
Jenny Harrold
Rebecca Hilton
Ingrid Hull
Niki McCretton
Sally Vaughan

THE BAND

Jim Dvorak – trumpet
Andrew Hurst – guitar / arch lute
Rob Lee – keyboards
Bridget Pearse – viola / violin
Jane Saunders – woodwind
Ben Stephens – percussion

PRODUCTION TEAM

Chella Adgopul – Stage Manager
Rosie Allsop – Deputy Stage Manager
Charlie Bicknell – Aerials & Circus Advisor
Sarah Butterworth – Costume Maker/Coordinator
Nigel Day – Set Builder/Coordinator
Mel Draper – Wardrobe Manager
Matt Hayden – Production Manager
Jonny Hoskins – Dramaturgy Advisor
Tom Hughes – Sound & Tech Designer
Sammy Hurden – Conductor
Delphine Jones – Assistant Producer
Holly Miller – Props Maker
Nikki Northover – Tap Dance Advisor
James Price – Film
Julie Read – Lighting Designer
Claire Shilton – Poster Design
Jemma Thompson – Signwriter
Ollie Titterington – Lighting Operative
Amy Yardley – Set & Costume Designer

STEERING GROUP 

Jim Binning (Treasurer)
Cleo Evans (Chair)
Chris Huxley
Rosie Russell
Sally Vaughan

BACKSTAGE VOLUNTEERS

Angelus Adgopul
Jacqueline Archer
Jo Armstrong
Laura Barrett
Jill Beed
Thomas Beed
Ida Belsey
Kimberley Blakey
Virginia & Alan Bowley
Victoria Brooke
Molly Bruce
John Budden
Connie Burchell
Ines Cavill
Val Corgan
Darren Crane
Liam Creedon
Mickey Diviney
Paul Eckett
Ali Edgley
Janet Fletcher
Bec Freiesleben
Ro Gallagher
Ali Geldart
Lynda Green
Philippa Grier
Judith Griffiths
Heather Hamer
Jenny Harrold
John Harris
Karen Harris
Rose Harris
Merry Hindsley
Veronica Hudson
Ingrid Hull
Rob Jayne
Pennie Jones
Sarah Lane
Kate Lang
Stephanie King
Alan & Sue Kirkpatrick
Cara Lennon
Katherine Locke
Lorraine Marsden
Kate Melville
Martin Miller
Grace & Alex Moir
Wendy Murray
Cath Nickels
Chris Payne
Allan Pearce
Mike Petitdemange
Rob Ridge
Jane Sneesby
Gemma Snow
Anna Sullock
Janette Swift
Rosie Sylvester
Corrie Van Rijn
Victoria Upton
Anne & Daniel West
Colin Williams
Dan Williams
Julia Williams
Peter Wilson
Charlotte Wyatt