Back to Back Theatre
Based in the Victorian regional centre of Geelong, Back to Back Theatre is widely recognised as an Australian theatre company of national and international significance. The company is driven by an ensemble of actors who are perceived to have intellectual disabilities and is considered one of Australia’s most important cultural exporters.
We contend our operation as a theatre company is beyond expectation of possibility: an affirmation for human potential. The company’s existence contributes to the richness and diversity of Australian life and palpably projects Geelong, Victoria and Australia to the world as innovative, sophisticated and dynamic.
From 2009 to 2021, the company has undertaken 72 national and 89 international seasons of its work. This includes presentations and screenings at the world’s pre-eminent contemporary arts festivals and venues such as the Edinburgh International Festival, London’s V&A Museum and the Barbican, Vienna Festival, Holland Festival and Theater der Welt, the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, the Public Theater in New York, Festival Tokyo, West Kowloon Cultural District Authority in Hong Kong, and Buenos Aires International Festival.
From 2009 to 2019, community and education workshops have been delivered to approximately 24,000 community members and students, with a focus on artistic excellence.
Back to Back Theatre has received 23 national and international awards including the presitgious International Ibsen Award, a Helpmann Award for Best Australian Work, an Edinburgh International Festival Herald Angel Critics’ Award, two Age Critics’ Awards, a New York Bessie and the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Group Award for our long-standing contribution to the development of Australian theatre. In 2015, Bruce Gladwin received the Australia Council for the Arts’ Inaugural Award for Outstanding Achievement in Theatre. The ensemble were awarded the ‘Best Ensemble’ in the 2019 Green Room Awards.
Based in Geelong, Back to Back Theatre was first formed in the early-to-mid 1980s following a period of deinstitutionalisation. Initially intended as a resource for people with disabilities to transition into the community, the company was soon creating distinctive work from the lived experience of actors perceived to have intellectual disabilities, giving insight to a marginalised section of the community for the very first time. It was a voice that hadn’t been modified by educational institutions or value enriching marketing mechanisms. It was raw, honest and heartfelt.
The performers of the work are also its co-authors and dramaturgs. Their observations, experiences and ideas surrounding cultural, social and political issues in the community in which they live and work forms the unique and compelling narrative of Back to Back’s performances.
Back to Back Theatre is now one of the most globally recognised Australian performing arts organisations.