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The Strangeways Ensemble

MERRIGONGX 2020 Artist Profile


Comprising seven members, The Strangeways Ensemble is Merrigong’s permanent company of professional actors perceived to have intellectual disability, and Wollongong’s only professional theatre ensemble. Formalised in 2018 after Merrigong’s second professional work with the group, The Outside ManThe Strangeways Ensemble was created from long-term participants of Merrigong and The Disability Trust’s Altogether Drama Program. The 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 commence development this year for presentation in 2023.

Photo by Dida Sundet.

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

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