Aberystwyth Arts Centre musical tells an extraordinary story

By Julie McNicholls Vale   |   Deputy news editor   |
Friday 5th August 2022 3:30 pm
@JulieCambrian
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Production still from Operation Julie
Operation Julie tells the story of what happened in 1970s west Wales when hippies settled in the area seeking a new way of living (Dimitris Legakis, Athena Picture Agency )

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OPERATION Julie has opened at Aberystwyth Arts Centre.

The new musical play is packed with songs, drama and comedy, and tells the extraordinary story of what happened in and around west Wales in the mid 1970s when hippies settled in the area seeking a new way of living and wanting to change the world for the better.

When a chance clue is discovered following a car accident, the local constabulary work with detectives from across Britain to uncover what turned out to be the biggest stash of acid ever found, taking out up to 60 per cent of the world’s LSD market at the time.

Taking on the roles of Richard Kemp and Christine Bott are Joseph Tweedale, and Georgina White. Set and costumes are designed by Carl Davies.

Greg Palmer is the musical arranger and director on this brand-new production. He has composed, arranged, and directed music for almost 150 professional theatre productions throughout the UK. His love for prog rock makes this the perfect job!

Lighting has been designed by Nick Bache with sound design by Mike Beer. The stage management team is comprised of recent graduates, Carys-Haf Williams and Blaithin McReynolds.

The cast is joined by Welsh actor Steffan Rizzi, who has recently been performing at The Royal National Theatre in London in The Corn is Green. Steffan plays the charismatic Alston Smiles Hughes.

Completing the company of actor-musicians are Kieran Bailey and Phylip Harries.

A familiar and popular actor, Phyl is delighted to be returning to Theatr na nÓg to be part of this new show.

Phyl said: “This is the kind of story that you have already heard whispers of. This is the kind of story you cannot really believe happened. It’s a kind of story that has grown beyond itself until the lines between truth and legend have blurred. A story that gripped village gossips and worldwide media alike.”

Daniel Carter Hope is thrilled to be back with Theatr na nÓg after joining them for Eye of the Storm in Hong Kong in 2019.

Sion Russel Jones, multi-talented Welsh singer-songwriter joins the company in his debut acting role, and the company welcomes recent Rose Bruford graduate, Caitlin Lavagna.

Detective Inspector Dick Lee is played by Steve Simmonds.

Operation Julie is directed and written by Geinor Styles, who directed and wrote the award-winning musical Eye of the Storm with Amy Wadge.

Geinor said: “We are thrilled to be welcoming back many of the actor- musicians who were part of our initial research and development workshop during the Covid pandemic, and I am over the moon to be working for the first time with Joseph Tweedale, who I have seen in many impressive productions at Tobacco Factory.

“It is also fantastic to welcome Welsh musical and acting talent in Cailtin Lavagna and Sion Russel Jones to the cast.”

Operation Julie tells the story of one of the most jaw-dropping true stories ever to come out of Wales and is a co-production between Theatr na nÓg and Aberystwyth Arts Centre, with a two-week run at Aberystwyth until 13 August and performances at Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon (24 to 26 August) and Lyric, Carmarthen (31 August to 2 September).

Read our review of Operation Julie in next week’s newspaper

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