A renowned Agatha Christie whodunnit is among the stage shows announced for Wollongong's premiere theatre company in 2024, while cheaper tickets are also on the cards.
Merrigong unveiled their new season on Tuesday night with some major changes, some notable absences plus a raft of productions their artistic director guarantees to make for a great night out.
Simon Hinton admitted to the Mercury that tough economic times meant a farewell for the Spiegeltent but cabaret, comedy and music would still be aplenty throughout the year.
Renowned comedians will anounce shows in months to come, while the first show to kick off the year is a song and dance show about a Sydney cabaret trailblazer from the 1930s, Nellie Small.
"People are buying [tickets] later, people are less certain," Hinton said. "But people want a good night out."
This meant they needed to program shows certain to draw crowds like children's favourites The Gruffalo and The Listies, plus murder mystery The Mousetrap or the story of Ruth Bader Ginsberg in RGB: Of Many, One.
Despite a near sold-out season of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream in the Wollongong Botanic Garden this month, outdoor theatre will be absent next year but is hoped to be revived in 2025.
"People love that experience ... it's definitely on our radar to do more and we want to regularly do the Shakespeare in the garden thing, but it's big and expensive," Hinton said.
"We've been really fortunate through the COVID years to have amazing support from all three levels of government and our community, but now that we're coming out of [that] special funding period ... our sector is doing it tough."
What does remain is the diversity of voices and support for locally produced shows.
Rising star Kay Proudlove's Dear Diary: A Play With Songs was the highest-selling MerrigongX show "by a mile", its popularity sending it on a national tour and returning to the main stage next year.
While value-for-money is also top of mind with "pay-as-you-feel" shows under the emerging MerrigongX program - like A Place in the Sultan's Kitchen, where the playwright and performer attempts to make his grandmother's chicken curry live on stage.
General ticketing will also be cheaper the more tickets you buy with up to 30 per cent off.
For all the details, visit: www.merrigong.com.au.
WHAT'S IN THE PROGRAM
Send For Nellie, February
- 1931, Sydney. West-Indian Australian singer Nellie Small puts on a sleek top hat and tails at a little Oxford Street venue, and a legend of Australian vaudeville and cabaret is born. Written by Helpmann Awardwinning playwright, and long-time Merrigong Theatre Company collaborator, Alana Valentine (Dead Man Broke, Barbara and the Camp Dogs, Letters to Lindy), Send For Nellie celebrates a ground-breaking, non-conformist path.
RBG: Of Many, One, April
- Heather Mitchell reprises her performance as Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the hotly anticipated national tour of Sydney Theatre Company's RBG: Of Many, One. On the heels of Prima Facie which took London's West End by storm, Olivier Award-winning Australian playwright Suzie Miller continues her interrogation of complex human stories, with this vibrant portrait of one of the most iconic women of our time.
Dogs Under My Skirt, April
- Pitched as one of New Zealand's most successful theatrical exports, performing off-Broadway in New York, and snapping up awards since 2016. Adapted from Tusiata Avia's poetry collection, Wild Dogs Under My Skirt is a provocative examination and celebration of the lives of Samoan women.
Dear Diary, May
- Kay Proudlove uses wry humour and confessional stories in Dear Diary, which asks us to look at what we hold onto in our lives and when it's the right time to let them go, if ever.
Jurrungu Ngan-ga [Straight Talk], August
- A dance, sound, and installation work. Dedicated to Indigenous and nonIndigenous Australians working together, it has been co-created by Marrugeku with Yawuru leader Patrick Dodson, Kurdish-Iranian writer and former Manus Island detainee Behrouz Boochani, and Iranian-Australian scholar-activist Omid Tofighian.
The Mousetrap, September
- For over 70 years this Agatha Christie murder mystery 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. Now it's Wollongong's turn to indulge in the classic crime caper that has cemented Christie as the queen of her genre.
Guards at the Taj, September
- Featuring a heart-breakingly funny friendship put to the ultimate test and existential banter reminiscent of Beckett and Stoppard, Guards at the Taj mixes witty black comedy with the bloodiest deeds of Greek Tragedy.
The Queen's Nanny, October
- Inspired by historical events, a royal scandal ignites a blistering fire between the steely Queen Mother and her children's doting nanny. The production comes to Wollongong direct from its world premiere season at Sydney's Ensemble Theatre.
It's the 'pay-as-you-feel' shows to assist emerging performers and works in production.
Beginning the season in August is Josh Hinton's A Place in the Sultan's Kitchen or How To Make the Perfect One-Pot Chicken Curry, weaving together childhood memories and family folklore passed down the generations, as Josh attempts to make his grandmother's chicken curry live on stage.
Later that month is Nathan Harrison's Birds of Tomorrow, a playful and heartfelt look at the birds around us, and what they might sing when we're gone. While The Cardinal Rules pops up in October, a nostalgic work of storytelling by Rose Maher, with Hurrah Hurrah, and a reckoning with an upbringing in the Australian Catholic Church circa 1990.
A one man show of physical theatre, comedy and clowning around. Expect a pinch of circus with video and computer animations and flying objects. It runs for 55 minutes with no interval. Suitable for ages 6 and up.
The Listies: Make Some Noise, July
For more than a decade this comedy duo have made Wollongong kids and adults laught with their antics. Expect Matt and Rich to belt out a bunch of songs with the LOLs turned up to the max. It runs for about 60 minutes, no interval. Suitable for ages 4 and up.
The Gruffalo, August
Suited to toddlers aged 3 and up, this stage adaption of the classic children's tale has been performed at London's West End and on Broadway. Take a journey with Mouse through the deep dark forest. It runs for about 55 minutes with no interval.
The Peasant Prince, September
The children's adaption of Mao's Last Dancer has been performed in Wollongong before to great success. It runs for about 60 minutes with no interval. Suitable for kids aged at least 7 and up.
Local legends Junkyard Beats entertain with a melodic, percussion extravaganza. It's a spectacle of rhythm, dance, circus and comedy. It runs for about 90 minutes with no interval. It's suitable for toddlers around age 3 and up.