‘Theatre no longer for the elite’ says Merrigong director

INNOVATIVE: A live horror show is one of the many new productions pushing boundaries in the 2018 Merrigong program. Picture: Supplied
INNOVATIVE: A live horror show is one of the many new productions pushing boundaries in the 2018 Merrigong program. Picture: Supplied

The Merrigong Theatre Company’s artistic director is working on a new long-term production – to get people from every section of the Illawarra community rushing for a seat.

Simon Hinton said the days of theatre being reserved for high society have long gone and he wants everyone – from children to adults, people with disabilties, and members of all ethnic communities, to feel welcome.

It comes as the Wollongong organisation announced their 2018 program on Tuesday, with many productions aimed at pushing boundaries and drawing more people in.

“Unlike sitting at home watching television, the theatre is a gathering place. It is about the community gathering to have experiences together … and that community is everyone,” Hinton told the Illawarra Mercury. “It isn’t a niche activity.”

Listening to their audience, he said, has resulted in a number of shows in 2018 “blurring the lines” between performer and audience with how the production is staged.

The introduction of MerrigongX will see a grouping of existing and new eclectic events by artists from the Illawarra and the country with innovative and independent works.

Shows on the program range from traditional operas and musicals, to live horror, a show performed in Arabic and productions created and performed by people with disabilities.

He also said new Census data is being analysed to better understand who the Illawarra is and what they may want for entertainment.

Hinton called for more people to support the arts as the company only receives around 20 per cent of funding from the government. the rest is sourced from donors or tickets sold.

“Because a lot of what we do, you can buy a ticket to a show, people assume it’s a commercial activity,” Hinton said. “A lot of work we do in terms of developing, commissioning and producing new work – that’s a hugely expensive activity but it’s hugely about supporting artists and Australian theatre more than being able to pay for itself.”