The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain are most well-known for their concerts, playing all genres of music on the ukulele, but they have also produced two other shows, which get an outing from time to time. You can find out about them here.
The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain has collaborated with the BFI (British Film Institute) National Archive to find a host of unusual and little seen gems from the early days of silent film. The Orchestra has sculpted them into a delightfully eclectic evening of music, film, comedy and pathos. This mixed bill combines short films and clips including adverts, singing pictures, ‘actualities’, dramas, science and nature, hints and hobbies and documentary footage to amaze, amuse and baffle. All of this, of course, presented in the Ukulele Orchestra’s own inimitable style, and set to a programme of original music, as well as carefully chosen old favourites from musical history.
Instead of taking a feature film, or, indeed, several short films, the idea was to take clips and short items of no longer than 7 minutes. This was partly a nod to the mixed bills of evenings from the early 1900s, where audiences would enjoy a variety of entertainment which included music, ‘interest films’ (educational or informative), adverts, comedy and drama. It was also an attempt to marry what the UOGB already does, as a band, with the task of providing music for silent film. As a result, we have a show in two halves, made up of pieces of music lasting between 3 and 9 minutes, each with its own piece of film. And so, neither a traditional film evening, nor a traditional music evening. Ukulelescope was debuted at Slapstick 09 in Bristol as part of the re-opening season at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre. It was an instant sell-out, and was described by the BFI as “a triumph”.
The show was created and produced by Hester Goodman, original music by Hester Goodman and George Hinchliffe, performed and arranged by the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.
Ukulelescope - picture 1
Ukulelescope - picture 2
Ukulelescope - picture 3
Ukulelescope - picture 4
The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain has recently produced its very own Ukulele opera, ‘Dreamspiel’, which was premiered at the Arcola Theatre's 'Grimebourne Opera Festival'. The music is written by George Hinchliffe and the lyrics are by San Francisco playwright Michelle Carter.
Dreamspiel is a response to ‘The Third Reich of Dreams’ by Charlotte Beradt, a journalist. While living in Germany in the 1930s, she secretly gathered the dreams of ordinary Germans, encoded them and smuggled them out of the country. These "diaries of the night", were independent of conscious will. They were, so to speak, "dictated to them by the dictatorship". Some dreams reflected painful political realities and inner worlds of fear and confusion. Some dreams prophetically recognized the aims and principles of totalitarianism and their consequences. One dream is of "the Abolition of Walls", of losing the right to privacy, a consequence of us not recognizing the pernicious effects of totalitarian tendencies, pressure and propaganda, and compliance with them. Current increased claims for the necessity of secret protection from uncertain menace, and for increased surveillance, are matched by the consequent contemporary relevance of this material, which speaks to us today beyond the personal or historical. Furthermore, some dreams reflect resistance: "I dreamt it was forbidden to dream, but I did anyway", or relief, and epiphany: "I don't always have to say no anymore".
The dream images are reminiscent of Beckett, Orwell, and Gunter Grass before Endgame, 1984, or The Tin Drum were ever written. They are painful, farcical, satirical and theatrical. When this is combined with the individuality and diversity which the Ukulele Orchestra bring to group performance, an audience is brought closer to the political realities of ordinary life; it's fears, prejudices and ecstasies.