Search

Keep in touch

Mail Chimp subscribe form goes here.


The Strangeways Ensemble

“We explore universal themes from our unique perspectives and aim to find the fantastical in the mundane. We make work which is evocative and challenging, but also poetic and funny. We like to make people think and laugh.”

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, 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

Malcolm Allison
Member
Malcolm has more than 20 years of theatre experience. He can imitate many famous voices, several animal and bird sounds, plus heaps more. He plays guitar, sings, and is good at poetry and writing. He has performed in all three Merrigong productions in association with The Disability Trust: The Man Who Dreamt the Stars, which was based on the true story of his own medical past, The Outside Man and Trash Talk as part of The Strangeways Ensemble. He was also a key member of The Disability Trust’s Altogether Drama member for 25 years.
Ethan Arnold
Member
Trash Talk is Ethan’s first professional acting role with The Strangeways Ensemble - he was previously involved in the early creative process of The Outside Man due to his desire to become a writer. Ethan has also been involved with The Disability Trust’s Altogether Drama program since 2015 and has performed in their last two shows, The Birds and Follow That Cat. Before this, he worked with The Dance Drama group, where he performed in stage adaptions of old film classics, Peter Pan and The Wizard of Oz. Ethan is passionate about drama, as he is able to express his creative side.
Rachel Head
Member
Rachel started drama in 1993. She was 21 years old and has performed in many shows with local community groups such as Altogether Drama and Workshop Theatre since 1994. Highlights include Sex in the Steel City, Something Wonderful, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Cinderella when she played Cinderella. Rachel’s first professional performance was in The Outside Man, a Merrigong Theatre Company production in association with The Disability Trust, in 2017. Rachel loves acting, singing and is very professional and fitted in well with an all-male cast for Trash Talk.
Christian Tagliaferro
Member
Christian started acting in high school where he participated in minor school productions and completed his HSC Drama subject. He has gained further performance experience through The Disability Trust’s Music Makers Program and the Altogether Drama Group. He completed his Bachelor of Creative Arts majoring in Theatre at the University of Wollongong in 2018. In 2017, Christian was involved in a production at the University of Wollongong, directed by Matt Prest called Base. Trash Talk is Christian’s second professional production, the first was The Outside Man in 2017.
Ethan Green
Member
Ethan enjoys drama and dance as he loves being in front of an audience! He has worked as a professional actor since 2017, and has performed in The Outside Man, a Merrigong Theatre Company production in association with The Disability Trust and Trash Talk by The Strangeways Ensemble. Ethan has also been involved with The Disability Trust’s Altogether Drama for about 7 years. In that time, he has performed in I Helen, I Hercules, The Birds and Follow That Cat .
Jordan Bowater
Member
Jordan was invited to join The Strangeways Ensemble in 2019 and Trash Talk is his first professional production. Jordan started with The Disability Trust’s Altogether Drama program in 2018, after wanting to get involved with the performing arts for a while. His first performance was Follow That Cat where he was the narrator and the man responsible for creating the ear worm that was the theme song. His interest outside of theatre is music, he plays a myriad of instruments.
Phillip Prentice
Member
Phillip has performed in all three Merrigong Theatre Company productions in association with The Disability Trust: The Man Who Dreamt the Stars, The Outside Man and Trash Talk as part of The Strangeways Ensemble. He has also been with the Altogether Drama group for over twenty years, recently performing in I Helen, I Hercules, The Birds and Follow That Cat. Phillip is well known as the “gentle giant”.
Anne-Louise Rentell
Director
Anne-Louise is a theatre maker, producer and arts administrator with over 25 years of experience as a director, producer, performer, dramaturg and arts manager. She has worked at Merrigong in various capacities since 2003. As Director of The Strangeways Ensemble, Anne-Louise has worked with the Ensemble to bring three original works to the stage, The Man Who Dreamt the Stars, The Outside Man and Trash Talk.

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.

 

News

Coming Up…