Highlights include classic Australian stories, two hit productions from the UK, a smoking-hot musical, brilliant family fun, electrifying circus, and an interactive show where audience members can choose their own audio adventure.
“In the theatre, the ancient art of storytelling is alive and well. In an increasingly complicated and fragmented society, storytelling has never been more important,” says Artistic Director Simon Hinton.
“We still revisit the classic myths and fables of our culture, but we also come to hear from a new breed of storytellers – those who document the happenings of our times, who question, provoke and challenge us to see new shape and meaning in our present-day world.”
“Merrigong Season 2015 is a wonderful collection of shows. And while there’s a great diversity that audiences can look forward to, the one thing that connects the shows is that they’re all brilliant pieces of storytelling,” he adds.
The season includes versions of stories that have helped define our nation. The legend of infamous bushranger Ned Kelly is reimagined in Queensland Theatre Company’s compelling Kelly. While the soulful tale of a boy growing up and discovering the beauty of the natural world, the iconic Storm Boy, is brought to the stage by Sydney Theatre Company and Barking Gecko Theatre Company. And Country Song tells the story of one of our most famous troubadours, Jimmy Little – a pioneer of country music and of reconciliation, a teacher and inspiration.
Stories from further afield include the deeply moving, but also very funny true tale from acclaimed UK writer and comedian Mark Thomas, a triumph of storytelling, Bravo Figaro! Also making the journey from abroad is Dylan Thomas: Return Journey, a show which offers audiences a chance to experience Bob Kingdom’s electrifying performance as brilliant Welsh writer Dylan Thomas, with original direction by Anthony Hopkins.
The 2014 Helpmann Award-winning musical Sweet Charity ticks all of the boxes for a fabulous night out, and is set to be Wollongong’s theatre event of 2015! With a score including brilliant hit songs The Rhythm of Life, If My Friends Could See Me Now and ‘Big Spender, fabulous choreography and loads of cheeky humour, Sweet Charity comes to Wollongong direct from its return Sydney season at the Sydney Opera House.
Season 2015 also offers what is possibly the best collection of shows suitable for families yet. Not to be missed is the family adventure Monkey… Journey to the West, based on one of the great classical texts of Chinese literature, and remembered from the beloved ‘70s Japanese cult TV show Monkey Magic. Filled with music, spectacular martial arts from parkour group Team9Lives, a multi-talented cast, and directed by living theatre legend John Bell, this story will delight audiences of all ages.
The ‘Gong continues to nuture a thriving circus scene, and the 2015 Season doesn’t fail with three amazing and very different circus acts. SOAP is showbiz at its splashy, sassy best, as an international cavalcade of acrobats and other artists perform in, on and around bathtubs.
Circus Oz makes a welcome return, rocketing back into Wollongong with their anarchic style of circus; and in a first for the region, 360 ALLSTARS will redefine circus, replacing acrobats with breakdancers, jugglers with basketball freestylers and a unicyclist with a BMX flatlander, in a street-meets-elite urban carnival for the young and young at heart.
In another first for Wollongong, The Confidence Man places the audience at the centre of the action. It’s performed by six audience members equipped with masks and headsets that guide them through the story. The rest of the audience watches the action from the perimeter, eavesdropping on the characters’ thoughts and conversations. Listening through headphones, the audience use a personal console to toggle between the audio of the different characters, building their own unique experience as they choose the action they want to follow. It’s one of the most interesting pieces of contemporary theatre produced in Australian in recent years, and a rare chance to be part of the future of contemporary theatre.
Continuing their tradition of producing excellent stories of local relevance, but universal resonance, Merrigong Theatre Company is producing a bold and fresh new theatre piece from Wollongong-based playwright and director, Dhananjaya Karunarathne. A Sri Lankan Tamil Asylum Seeker’s Story as Performed by Australian Actors Under the Guidance of a Sinhalese Director was originally developed and presented by the playwright himself through Merrigong’s independent artist program, Studio Sessions.
The work now takes flight in a full-scale Merrigong production as Dhananjaya joins forces with director and dramaturg David Williams, a key artist behind the version 1.0 and Merrigong smash-hit co-production from 2011, The Table of Knowledge.
There is also plenty of creative activity for kids, with a range of shows including The 26-Storey Treehouse, the return of goofball extraordinaires The Listies, and a wonderful and intimate stage adaptation of Roald Dahl’s much-loved The Witches.
For more information and complete program, visit: www.merrigong.com.au for details.
Image: Kelly – photo by Justine Walpole