The incredible story of Wales’ biggest drugs bust in 1977 has been brought back to life in the form of a comedy musical by theatre company Theatr na nÓg.

Selling out an initial run in 2022, and now back by popular demand, Operation Julie is taking this unique retelling of one of Wales’ greatest stories to more people in more places than ever across the UK. The show has clearly impressed critics and audiences alike.

The reports of the LSD bust in rural mid-Wales captured the world. Retelling it from both sides of the drug divide, Theatr na nÓg and Aberystwyth Arts Centre are taking this local story that went global to theatres across the UK, driven by demand following the sell-out of its debut run in the summer of 2022.

The show is deeply placed within its 70s setting, with strong themes of the climate crisis, musicality and Welsh culture. Costumes, sets and, music thrusts the audience back into a world of psychedelic rock and heavy metal. Flooding the ears with giants of the time such as Hendrix and Hawkwind, but also the some of the key players on the Welsh rock scene, like psychedelic rockers Man and heavy metal pioneers Budgie.

Operation Julie live on stage
Operation Julie live on stage (Dimitris Legakis/Athena Pictures)

Among the main protagonists is roguish dealer Alston ‘Smiles’ Hughes. Speaking today, Smiles says the acid movement was as much about a sustainable lifestyle and a commitment to saving the planet as it was about psychedelic trips: “We were raising the flag and saying look, look, this is an emergency… And look at the state of the world now. They should have listened – they should have bloody listened… Then [in the 1970s], there was still the time to change. We could have changed lots and lots of things about society, and instead we went the other way.”

Smiles hopes the play reflects the seriousness of the cause of that time and its relevance today, but also the joy of living through an exhilarating period: “It was wonderful. We had so much fun, you can’t believe it!”

Theatre in Wales’ Adam Somerset compares the show to hit musical Six: “Operation Julie is a roller-coaster of enjoyment and a high-talent fest. It is no surprise that audiences have warmed so much to it. Like "Six" it is half-way between theatre and rock-gig; like "Six" it is attracting viewers to return and return. But like all good art it is underpinned with seriousness of theme.”

And it’s not just the critics. Audience members are returning two, three and even four times to enjoy the spectacle with one saying, “What an absolutely stunning show! An absolutely fantastic feel-good production with epic 70s live music, comedy and the truth told from the perspective of the drug dealers and the police. In all my years of touring theatre productions, this must be in the top three must-see shows! A top-quality production!! You will leave feeling fantastic!!”

Operation Julie is currently touring the UK and can be seen at Brecon’s Theatr Brycheiniog from tonight (Wednesday) until Saturday, May 4.