Back to Back Theatre, a unique ensemble of actors with disabilities

Do you know the Back to Back Theatre?


Back to Back Theatre creates new forms of contemporary theatre imagined from the minds and experiences of a unique ensemble of actors with disabilities, giving voice to social and political issues that speak to all people.

Based in Geelong, Australia, the company makes work locally and tours globally.

About us

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 six 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.


Current project

“Courageous, confronting, intelligent and magisterially considered theatre.” – The Age, 5 stars

Ganesh Versus the Third Reich is poignant, beautiful, disarming, full of vulnerability and sly transparency.


The story begins with the elephant-headed god Ganesh travelling through Nazi Germany to reclaim the Swastika, an ancient Hindu symbol. As this intrepid hero embarks on his journey a second narrative is revealed: the actors themselves begin to feel the weighty responsibility of storytellers and question the ethics of cultural appropriation.

Cleverly interwoven in the play’s design is the story of a young man inspired to create a play about Ganesh, god of overcoming obstacles. He is an everyman who must find the strength to overcome the difficulties in his own life, and defend his play and his collaborators against an overbearing colleague.

The show is made before our very eyes and takes on its own life. It invites us to examine who has the right to tell a story and who has the right to be heard. It explores our complicity in creating and dismantling the world, human possibility and hope.

Ganesh Versus the Third Reich is a work for the near future, seemingly impossible to make.

2009 Kit Denton Fellowship
2011 Melbourne Festival Age Critics Award
2012 Green Room Award Best Ensemble Performance (Alternative & Hybrid Performance category)
2012 Green Room Award Best Direction (Theatre category)
2012 Green Room Award Best Production (Theatre category)
2012 Helpmann Award for Best Play

GANESH VERSUS THE THIRD REICH is presented in Montreal in Festival Transamériques May 30-31, June 1-2, 2013

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