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The Strangeways Ensemble

Comprising seven members, The Strangeways Ensemble is Merrigong’s permanent company of professional actors, and Wollongong’s only professional theatre ensemble.

About

Formalised in 2018 after Merrigong’s second professional work with the group, The Outside ManThe Strangeways Ensemble meet every Friday to rehearse and develop skills, as well as engaging in a number of week-long workshops with some of the country’s leading theatre artists and companies.

Premiering in 2020, their show Trash Talk explored justice in the workplace for people working in Australian Disability Enterprises. Devised with Director Anne-Louise Rentell, and drawing on a hyper-real aesthetic inspired by professional wrestling, Trash Talk takes a gladiatorial approach to human rights and our universal desire for respect and dignity. An unflinching start to the Merrigong 2020 Season, the work also toured to Riverside Theatres, Parramatta in February.

Trash Talk is the third original, mainstage work produced by Merrigong Theatre Company in association with The Disability Trust, premiering in 2020, following The Man Who Dreamt the Stars (2014) and The Outside Man (2017). Their next mainstage work will be presented on stage in 2023.

The Strangeways Ensemble members

Anne-Louise Rentell
Director
Malcolm Allison
Member
Ethan Arnold
Member
Jordan Bowater
Member
Ethan Green
Member
Rachel Head
Member
Phillip Prentice
Member
Christian Tagliaferro
Member

The Shadow and The Light - A COVID-19 experiment on Zoom

Artist Statement

“Since April 2020, The Strangeways Ensemble has been meeting online every Friday in lieu of our weekly workshops in the Bob Peet Studio at IPAC. It has been a very different space in which to work, but one which has inspired reflective and personal responses to the situation we all currently find ourselves in. When Ethan Arnold shared his poem, The Shadow and The Light, it resonated with all of us so we devised a way to present and share it through the medium of zoom.”
Anne-Louise Rentell

“This poem wasn’t actually written as my response for COVID-19, in fact I’ve written this poem years ago as something else, and I forgotten all about it until Anne-Louise brought it up while discussing this experiment with Zoom. So I rewritten it, cut some things out and here we have the poem that you heard.

I think it’s interesting to share during this time because even though it was meant to be something else, I put in a lot of the feelings that I had when I was younger, and now I feel like I’m falling back into that place that I was in with how the world is turning out, I can sum up by saying that one person brought me out of my shell and after that, I seen many others helping me keep out of it and I feel that I owe them.”
Ethan Arnold

Watch the Digital Taster

Trash Talk

Premiere season
29 Jan – 2 Feb 2020 – Illawarra Performing Arts Centre, Wollongong
14 – 15 Feb 2020 – Riverside Theatres, Parramatta

A Merrigong Theatre Company production in association with The Disability Trust by The Strangeways Ensemble.

Set in a fictional workplace – the recycling depot of an Australian Disability Enterprise (ADE) – Trash Talk draws inspiration from the real-life 2018 review of award wages for people working in such commercial businesses, and the personal impact that it had on members of the cast.

With a hugely entertaining blend of humour, physical theatre and video projection, Trash Talk is framed within the hyper-reality of a professional wrestling tournament. With its gladiatorial approach to human rights and our universal desire for respect and dignity, the show reaffirms the right to work as fundamental to human existence.

 

 

The Outside Man

Premiere season
15 – 25 Jan 2017 – Illawarra Performing Arts Centre, Wollongong

A Merrigong Theatre Company production in association with The Disability Trust.

LOVE. We all want it. We all need it. We all like to sing about it.

 Venture down a dark, rain-drenched alley, through an unmarked doorway to the depths of your subconscious, and step into cabaret night at The Sweet Wrapper Club.

Here, love doesn’t promise a happy ending. There’s no walking hand-in-hand on a beach in the glow of a glorious sunset. This is a world of dream vampires, lonely catbirds, bearded clowns, and hibernating bears. It is a song sung with a mouthful of fairy floss.

Featuring an ensemble of performers, some of whom are perceived to have intellectual disabilities, The Outside Man is a new Merrigong work with a unique artistic vision resulting from a long-term partnership with The Disability Trust.

An anarchic performance in which our learnt experience of romantic love is hijacked and reimagined, The Outside Man is a brave, new and outrageously original musical theatre work, from the team that brought you The Man Who Dreamt the Stars in 2014. Featuring live musicians including Daryl Wallis (Dead Man Brake, Landscape with Monsters), The Outside Man is an entertaining, imaginative and touching exploration of our ability to love.

Director: Anne-Lousie Rentell, Composer/Musical Director: Daryl Wallis, Musicians: Tim Oxley, Jodi Phillis, Set & Costume Designer: Katja Handt, Lighting Designer: Verity Hampson, Dramaturg: Caleb Lewis.

The Man Who Dreamt the Stars

Premiere season
14 – 22 Feb 2014 – Illawarra Performing Arts Centre, Wollongong

A Merrigong Theatre Company production in association with The Disability Trust.

Featuring an ensemble of performers, some of whom are perceived to have intellectual disabilities, The Man Who Dreamt the Stars is a new Merrigong work with a unique artistic vision resulting from our long-term partnership with The Disability Trust.

A young man. A classic villain. A protective mother. A mysterious astronaut. Devised by the cast and creative team, The Man Who Dreamt the Stars takes us on an unexpected journey, from the inner-most workings of the mind, to the imagined reaches of outer space.

Absurd and darkly comic, The Man Who Dreamt the Stars takes as its starting point the incredible true story of a young man’s experiences with a recurring brain tumour. Combining surreal characters, stunning interactive video projection, pop-culture references and quirky songs, The Man Who Dreamt the Stars is a delightful and surprising new theatre work that reminds us that in the face of life’s challenges, there is great beauty to be found in the power of the imagination.

Recommended for ages 12+. Contains some adult themes.

This theatrical experiment involving people of mixed abilities gets much better than mixed results: the work unfurls with dignity.” – Daily Review, Crikey

Visually stunning.” – Australian Stage

Director: Anne-Louise Rentell, Lighting & Video Designer: Toby Knyvett, Set & Costume Designer: Imogen Ross, Sound Designer: Daryl Wallis, Movement Director: Lee Pemberton, Cast: Alicia Battestini, Drayton Morley, Malcolm Allison, Phillip Prentice, and Photo: Paul Jones.

 

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