Best gift ever after Morecambe woman’s transplant op

The cast and crew of Comarella as part of the Wise Up workshops.
The cast and crew of Comarella as part of the Wise Up workshops.

A Morecambe woman who underwent a life-saving operation battled her way back to health to watch her “resilient” children perform their show of the year.

Elspeth Roberts left hospital earlier than expected after her transplant one month ago to treat leukaemia.

Elle Roberts.

Elle Roberts.

The 35-year-old was determined to get her strength back so she could see her Wise Up Workshop group perform their first production of Comarella.

“I got discharged the same day of the dress rehearsal and went straight there,” said Elspeth, also known as Elle.

“These kids have never been on stage before, quite a lot of the cast have got additional needs, so it is just amazing.

“I was so proud, I organised this with the kids so it was quite tough being away from them.

Some of the cast and crew having fun backstage.

Some of the cast and crew having fun backstage.

“It was quite a big surprise when I turned up.

“The kids have been resilient and just got on with it and with a new director, Keeley, it is testimony to what Wise Up is about, they are the underdogs.”

Elle set up Wise Up Workshops to use art forms to promote personal development, confidence and communication skills in individuals with low confidence or additional needs. Despite her absence as she underwent the transplant, the group have carried on, working hard to bring the play to audiences.

The cast ranging from 10 to 28-years-old performed Comarella, which takes on an alternative theme to Cinderella, at the University of Cumbria’s Black Box 
Theatre.

The children during one of the Wise Up Workshops.

The children during one of the Wise Up Workshops.

The story follows Ella, played by 15-year-old Ellie Edwards, who lies in hospital in a coma after a car crash.

Her mum, played by Kelly Wanless, 28, was the driver of the car and has gone missing.

In the coma Ella dreams of another world.

The play explores issues of mental health, self-harm, grief and bullying but it also mixes love with comedy and throws in a cream pie to the audience along the way.

For Ellie Edwards, taking on the lead role of Cinders was a big commitment but a huge honour.

“I came into Wise Up really shy but now I am a new person,” said Ellie, who goes to Morecambe Community High School.

“I feel really confident when I am on stage, it is really exciting.”

Amy Hodgson, 15, was instantly attracted to the role of PC Crabbie and Lizzie.

“My favourite scene is when I get sprayed with cream pie,” said the Morecambe Bay School pupil.

“I thought it would be fun to play a cop, I like to make people laugh.”

Kelly Wanless, who plays Shaz and the Hairy Godfather in Comarella, got into Wise Up after her daughter became a part of the group.

She said: “I joined purely by accident, I went to one of the shows to help my daughter and the rest is history.

“We are a fun, bubbly group, it has become a big part of my life.”

Kiera Edwards, 13, joined Wise Up two years ago and hopes to pursue a career in theatre.

She said: “It is great for confidence building and friendship, and it is actually really fun.”

Josh Willis, 13, is the only male member of the ctas in Comarella and said the girls are all friendly and there is no bickering on or off set.

He said: “We are very friendly group, everyone gets on with each other.

“My favourite scene is where I play Shiny because it’s the funniest to do.”
Director Keeley Wilkinson said the kids have come a long way since they first began working on the play in September.

She said: “I have always wanted to use drama to help the community and I believe it is accessible to everybody. This is what Wise Up is all about, accessibility, and I wanted to be a part of that.

“I have watched some of these youngsters grow so much, they have really stepped up to the mark, especially with Elle being ill.”

The cast includes Ellie Edwards as Ella/Cinder, Kelly Wanless as Shaz/Hairy Godfather, Amy Hodgson as Paramedic 1/PC Crabbie/Lizzie, Kimberely Willougby as Paramedic 2/Police Officer and Assistant Stage Manager, Alys Sharp as Ella’s stunt double, Ella Tomlinson as Auntie Jen/Dirty Di and Leyla, Kiera Edwards as Auntie Amy, Eyaner Wanless as Lexi/Nurse Jones, Shannon Thurston as Rose, Josh Willis as Doctor Sebastian/Postman/Shiny and Seb, Jo as Emergency Service Operator.

Also Elle Roberts as the script writer/remote director, Mollie as assistant script writer, Keeley as director, Aleisha as assistant director, Molly as costumes/makeup/stage manager, Kim as assistant stage manager, Ann as dress designer/costume designer, Duncan as sound design technician, Aedan as technical assistant, Jodie as general assistant and Will as production consultant. 
Jo, of Wise Up, said: “I think Comarella went really well, the feedback we had from parents but from potential partner organisations all were positive, they enjoyed themselves.

“The staff there were very impressed and said they conducted themselves very well. We feel really proud of them.

“They have been brilliant, they have a huge amount of respect for Elle and the opportunity she has given to them.”

The group will perform Comarella at Morecambe Fringe Festival on September 8-10.

Even though Elle is recovering from her transplant, from a female donor in Norway, she is still at work turning a local story about little people living under the Bay Gateway into a new play for the group to perform.