“We are the Back to Back Theatre ensemble. We play with intention. Some days we work at headquarters in Geelong, and some days you will find us on tour. Brian is our pop culture specialist. He’s pretty strong as an actor and as a person; he is likely to lift you off the floor. Simon is an enigma, and the rightful Captain of Quizzes. Scott is like an arrow; he is straight up like an arrow fired from a bow. Sarah is our courage. Mark is a free spirited type of person, he’s King of Comedy. He likes birds. Some of us identify with being outsiders. Some of us don’t. We wonder: what would we be outside of? We give everything, and everyone a go. We hope you will feel intoxicated by our shows, that our shows will entertain you, that our shows will make you question things.” – Ensemble Statement
Back to Back Theatre was founded in Geelong in 1987 to create theatre with people who are perceived to have a disability. It has gone on to become one of Australia’s leading creative voices, focusing on moral, philosophical and political questions about the value of individual lives.
With a full-time ensemble of five actors, Back to Back creates work that is idiosyncratic, passionate and at times confronting. Back to Back’s ensemble is made up of actors perceived to have intellectual disabilities, a group of people who, in a culture obsessed with perfection and surgically enhanced ‘beauty’, are the real outsiders. This position of marginality provides them with a unique and at time subversive view of the world. The stories they create explore “the cold, dark side” of our times, be it sexuality of people with disabilities, the uses of artificial intelligence and genetic screening, unfulfilled desire, the inevitability of death, and what the fixation with economic rationality and utilitarianism means for people excluded from the ‘norm’.
With Bruce Gladwin as Artistic Director, Back to Back has nurtured a unique artistic voice, placing the ensemble at the centre of social and cultural dialogue. Through a process of research, improvisation and scripting, and collaboration between the ensemble, Artistic Director and invited guests, new work is realised and performed to audiences around the world.
In 2013 a book was published about the life and works of Back to Back Theatre – its the first of its kind.
‘We’re people who do shows’: Back to Back Theatre – Performance Politics Visibility Edited by Helena Grehan and Peter Eckersall.
This book gathers key perspectives on Back to Back Theatre including interviews, documentation and scripts selected by the company and here made available to the reader for the first time. Accompanying this are scholarly essays and artistic reflections on some of the company’s most important and influential shows, including Soft, small metal objects, Food Court and Ganesh Versus the Third Reich. Providing insights from both inside and outside of Back to Back’s creative processes, this book offers a composite set of reflections on creativity, performance, politics, visibility and humanity.
“‘We’re People Who Do Shows,’ Back to Back Theatre is a book for many people, at once accessible and erudite, intimate and esoteric, illuminatingly edited, illustrated and designed…” Keith Gallasch, RealTime Arts