UK theatre company Grist to the Mill touring shows to Newcastle Fringe for first time

HEROINE: UK theatre company Grist to the Mill will tour its production The Ballad of Mulan to the WEA Creative Arts Centre on March 20 and 22 as part of Newcastle Fringe. Pictured is Michelle Yim as Mulan.
HEROINE: UK theatre company Grist to the Mill will tour its production The Ballad of Mulan to the WEA Creative Arts Centre on March 20 and 22 as part of Newcastle Fringe. Pictured is Michelle Yim as Mulan.

Theatre lovers will not be short of shows to see in March with Newcastle Fringe serving up a variety of local, national and even international productions during the five-day festival.

One of the highlights of the festival, running March 18-22, will be three theatre shows from UK-based production company Grist to the Mill. The cast, touring to Newcastle for the first time this year directly following Adelaide Fringe, will perform The Ballad of Mulan, Moby Dick and Gratiano.

"We have never been to Newcastle, Australia. We're very excited to be visiting it for the first time," Grist to the Mill actor and director Michelle Yim said.

This will be the second year the company tours to Australia for Fringe festivals, having first visited in 2017. Ms Yim said it was the company's hope to meet more Australian companies for "possible future collaborations and projects".

Gratiano is one of Grist to the Mill's most critically acclaimed pieces. It explores the politics of prejudice using humour and Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice.

Michelle Yim as Mulan in Grist to the Mill's theatre show The Ballard of Mulan, showing in Newcastle in March as part of Newcastle Fringe. Pictures: Supplied

Michelle Yim as Mulan in Grist to the Mill's theatre show The Ballard of Mulan, showing in Newcastle in March as part of Newcastle Fringe. Pictures: Supplied

"The setting might be post-fascist Italy but the theme still reflects our world today - a sure sign that history has a habit of repeating itself," Ms Yim said.

The company's Moby Dick is a faithful but abridged retelling of Herman Melville's classic tale. It is a solo performance by Grist to the Mill writer and actor Ross Ericson.

"It was the bicentennial of Meville's birth last year and the production was well received at Edinburgh Fringe... so we thought we would bring it to Australia," Ms Yim said.

It will be Ms Yim herself who brings the character Mulan, most popularly known as the Chinese heroine whose legend inspired Disney's animated movie of the same name, in Grist to the Mill's production The Ballad of Mulan.

"The world has been introduced to Mulan through Disney but our piece is based on the original Chinese poem. A more grittier production, it avoids the talking dragons and searches for the real woman behind the famous Chinese legend," Ms Yim said.

Moby Dick will show at Royal Exchange Salon Theatre on March 18 at 7.30pm and WEA Creative Arts Centre on March 22 at 9pm; Gratiano will show at the WEA centre on March 19 and 21 at 7.30pm and; The Ballard of Mulan will show at WEA centre on March 20 and 22 at 7.30pm.

Each show runs for about one hour. Tickets start at $20. Buy tickets and see all Newcastle Fringe shows at newcastlefringe.com.au.

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