Boundaries were pushed in 2018 for Wollongong’s professional theatre company Merrigong, but it’s time to settle down for the new year.
The not-for-profit entity found huge success with the live Horror stage-show and inter-racial romantic comedy Black is The New White, but others did not draw in the numbers as was hoped.
Merrigong artistic director Simon Hinton said he was a great believer in pushing boundaries with audiences, but also mindful to ensure they had “some fun nights out”. This signals why the upcoming 2019 program is a little “safer” than the works seen this year.
Burlesque acrobats stole people’s hearts in Limbo under the Spiegeltent – drawing the most crowds for a show in 2018 – but overall ticket sales for the European tent didn’t much exceed the previous year as expected.
Deeply moving stories from other cultures saw enthusiastic audiences but not in huge amounts – such as the story of a Congolese boy soldier told during a boxing match in Prize Fighter; and the Arabic performance of Taha, the tale of Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali.
“You’d love it if everything sold like hot cakes, but the reality is there’s lots of different things going on and we are always introducing new and diverse things which sometimes takes time,” Hinton said.
“We’ve presented amazing theatre from Aboriginal playwrights and theatre-makers for years and we’ve gradually got to the stage where the audience really looks forward to those stories.”
Black Is The New White saw the highest uptake from subscribers which Hinton said showed audiences were pleasantly changing their views toward Indigenous theatre. Horror proved a big winner for Merrigong though drew ticket sales predominantly from people who did not frequent the theatre – if at all.
Old favourite Calamity Jane the musical had some theatre-goers buying tickets more than once – and showed people still love traditional theatre, according to Hinton.
More of the tried and tested formulas would return to the Wollongong stage in the new year – though while they may not be as “innovative”, Hinton said there would still be powerful stories to tell.
The Spiegeltent season would also be tweaked and include more free performances around the Arts Precinct, as well as shows running for longer.
Overall, Hinton said it had been a good year for the company with season ticket purchases so far going well.
“We’re seeing quite a lot of new people subscribing … we don’t know if that trend will continue but that’s an interesting thing to note,” he said.
The full Spiegeltent program will be announced in early 2019. For everything else visit: www.merrigong.com.au