7 December 2023

Theatre thrills as Merrigong releases its smashing 2024 season

| Dione David
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Still from a play showing five people in a sitting room having a discussion

Big-ticket item Agatha Christie’s classic Mousetrap comes to Wollongong. Photo: Brian Geach.

Merrigong has announced its 2024 Mainstage and MerrigongX season, and artistic director and CEO Simon Hinton can’t pick a favourite.

“Please don’t make me,” he laughs. “It’s truly such an incredible season we have lined up this year.”

Simon says the company is “still very much recovering” from its pandemic hangover, as are audiences, but this year’s season brings a balance of popular shows with wide appeal as well as diverse voices that don’t just cater to traditional theatre-going audiences.

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Excitingly, this will include the company’s first international show since COVID. Having performed off-Broadway in New York and snapped up numerous awards, Wild Dogs Under My Skirt is one of New Zealand’s most successful theatrical exports. Billed as “brimming with humour and pure entertainment”, this adaptation of Tusiata Avia’s collection of the same name is a provocative examination and celebration of the lives of Samoan women.

“It has to be one of the most beautiful and powerful pieces of theatre to come from New Zealand,” Simon says. “It follows five Samoan women and evokes everything that’s amazing about Pacific Island culture, from the humour to the colourful characters.”

Five Samoan women on theatre stage

From New Zealand comes Wild Dogs Under My Skirt. Photo: Merrigong.

Much closer to home, local talent Kay Proudlove is taking her show Dear Diary on a national tour to 20 venues, following a successful MerrigongX debut last year. This show of wry humour and confessional stories asks audiences to look at what we hold onto in our lives and when it’s the right time to let them go, if ever.

“It’s always exciting to see a local artist blossom,” Simon says. “It’s a funny, clever show, and Kate is an amazing songwriter. She’s rediscovered her teenage diaries and explored them in a bunch of funny songs and stories about growing up.”

Big-ticket shows include Mousetrap – an Agatha Christie story that has kept millions of people from every corner of the globe on the edge of their seats. Directed by Australian theatre royalty Robyn Nevin, this acclaimed new production wowed audiences on a national tour in 2022. In September, it will be Wollongong’s turn to indulge in the classic crime caper that has cemented Agatha Christie as the queen of her genre.

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Simons says this year’s programming reflects strongly on the talent and fortitude of women. It wasn’t necessarily a deliberate move, but he reckons it’s a good sign for the times.

“I think that’s a strong reflection that those stories are being told, and those voices being heard,” he says.

“From the season opener Send For Nellie to RBG: Of Many, One, which is about an iconic woman of our time, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the programming is peppered with extraordinary women and I think it’s a fantastic thing to see so much of that in contemporary Australian theatre.”

Actress Heather Mitchell dressed as Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The luminous Heather Mitchell reprises her performance as Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the hotly anticipated national tour of Sydney Theatre Company’s RBG: Of Many, One, coming to Wollongong in April. Photo: Merrigong.

The highlights go on, inviting everyone to “Come Together” to experience the thrill of live theatre.

“With so much going on in the world, we want to remind audiences what this really means, so in our season brochure we’ve asked members of our community to share what ‘Come Together’ means to them,” Simon says.

”Put simply, for me, it is the thrill you get when you share great experiences with friends and loved ones.

“And there is a particular thrill that only comes from live performance. A live theatre show is a one-off moment in time that you share with an audience – no two performances are ever exactly the same, and that exact combination of audience members will never be together again either – it is a totally unique experience.”

For more information about the 2024 season, visit Merrigong.

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