Formed in 1987 and based in the regional centre of Geelong, Victoria, the company is driven by an ensemble of eight actors perceived to have intellectual disabilities.
From 1990 to 1998 the company undertook a series of highly successful collaborations with Circus Oz, Melbourne Workers Theatre, Arena Theatre Company, Handspan, My Friend The Chocolate Cake and Snuff Puppets.
Since 1999, under the Artistic Directorship of Bruce Gladwin, the company has nurtured a unique artistic voice with an emphasis on the ensemble’s own commentaries on broad social and cultural dialogue. Created through a process of research, improvisation and scripting, new work is realised via collaboration between the ensemble, Artistic Director and guest artists.
Critical and audience praise for productions MENTAL (1999), DOG FARM (2000) and SOFT (2002) saw the company’s work extend beyond premiere status and expand the company’s audience base to national and international arenas.
SOFT won The Age Critics’ Award for Creative Excellence was nominated for a Helpmann Award for Best Script and toured to Europe, with COW (from the DOG FARM trilogy), in 2003.
SMALL METAL OBJECTS premiered and sold out at the 2005 Melbourne International Festival. It won the inaugural Age Critics’ Special Commendation and was nominated for a Helpmann Award for Best New Australian Work. In the same year, Back to Back won the prestigious Myer Foundation Performing Arts Award for its long-standing contribution to the development of Australian theatre.
In 2007, SMALL METAL OBJECTS reappeared in Australia at a three week sell out Sydney Festival season, and in a 6-city Australian national tour (via Mobile States), including seasons at the UWA Perth International Arts Festival and Ten Days on the Island. It then toured to Hannover, Paris, Copenhagen, Groningen, Zurich, Dublin (at the 50th anniversary of the Dublin International Theatre Festival) and London (presented by The Barbican and Theatre Royal East Stratford).
The season in Paris was presented under the auspices of the Australian International Cultural Council where the script was translated into French and presented with live in-ear translation. SMALL METAL OBJECTS was also translated into German for the seasons in Groningen and Zurich where it won the ZKB Acknowledgement Prize for “Extraordinary Artistic Achievement”, a mark of the calibre of the work measured within a dynamic international environment. SMALL METAL OBJECTS also won a Green Room Award for Best Theatre Production (New Form) for its return season to Melbourne in 2007.
In 2008 SMALL METAL OBJECTS headlined New York’s Under the Radar Festival, a curated project of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) curated by Mark Russell and has appeared in Toronto (Harbourfront Centre), Vancouver (PuSh International Performing Arts Festtival), Seattle (On the Boards), Burlington (Flynn Center), Minneapolis (The Walker Art Center) and at the Singapore National Arts Festival. In the same year, Back to Back Theatre’s most recent work FOOD COURT with The Necks sold out six weeks prior to opening as part of the Melbourne International Arts Festival and was nominated for 3 Helpmann Awards for Best New Australian Work, Best Original Score and Best Scenic Design.
In 2009 FOOD COURT toured to the Geelong Performing Arts Centre, Kunstenfestivaldesarts in Brussels and to the Sydney Opera House as part of Luminous – a festival curated by Brian Eno. The first experimental incarnation of a new work in development, TOUR GUIDE, was created in collaboration with community members from Malaria, SOundSO Theater & Schräge Vägel in Linz (Austria) as part of Linz 09 – European Cultural Capital 09 whilst the unstoppable SMALL METAL OBJECTS toured to Linz as part of the same program. SMALL METAL OBJECTS then went on to be presented in Ljubljana, Slovenia (Exodos Festival), Hamburg, Germany (Kampnagel), Bristol, UK (Arnolfini and Bristol Old Vic), Portland, Oregon (TBA Festival), Philadelphia (Philadelphia Live Arts Festival) and Washington DC (The Kennedy Center).
2010 saw FOOD COURT tour to the Adelaide Festival and open the London International Festival of Theatre at The Barbican. After touring to 29 cities in the world, SMALL METAL OBJECTS was presented in the company’s home town of Geelong for the first time where it was adored by local audiences.
In 2010 Back to Back Theatre was awarded the Kit Denton Fellowship for courageous writing for its new work in development, GANESH VERSUS THE THIRD REICH.
In 2011 GANESH VERSUS THE THIRD REICH premiered at the Melbourne Festival to critical and audience acclaim. It was awarded the 2011 Age Critics’ Award for best new Australian work, won three Green Room Awards for Best Ensemble Performance: Alternative & Hybrid Performance category; Best Director: Theatre category; Best Production: Theatre category and the 2012 Helpmann Award for Best Play.
In May 2012 GANESH VERSUS THE THIRD REICH toured to the prestigious Vienna Festival to audience and critical acclaim with one critic claiming it “one of the best productions of this year’s "Wiener Festwochen” – and certainly the biggest surprise of the festival.“ Following Vienna, GANESH VERSUS THE THIRD REICH toured to the London International Festival of Theatre (LIFT) in June and Rotterdamse Schouwburg in September 2012.
In 2012 Back to Back Theatre won the Australian Disability Enterprises Excellence Award for the significant contribution the company has made in improving the lives of people with disability.
Over the last five years alone Back to Back has toured to 49 cities across the world.
Based in the regional city of Geelong, the company is now one of Australia’s most globally recognised and respected contemporary theatre companies.
Throughout, Back to Back has collaborated intensively with local communities, in the Greater Geelong region, in south western Victoria, around Australia and internationally.