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La Biennale di Venezia

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Biennale Teatro 2024

Back to Back Theatre

Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement

Award ceremony

Sunday 30 June, 12:00 noon
Ca’ Giustinian, Venice

Back to Back Theatre

La Biennale di Venezia will present the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement to the company Back to Back Theatre.

Founded in 1987 by a core group of artists – Simon Laherty, Sarah Mainwaring, Scott Price – who identify as differently abled, and joined in 1999 by Bruce Gladwin as the artistic director, Back to Back Theatre has captivated audiences around the world for the past thirty years with over thirty productions. Works that address social, political and philosophical themes, challenging the construction of our imaginaries and our perception of normalcy. A career constellated with awards, from the International Ibsen Award in 2022, to the Herald Angel Critics’ Award at the International Edinburgh Festival in 2014, the Bessie Award in New York in 2008, in addition to the many Green Room Awards they received at home.

“Back to Back Theatre, under the guidance of Bruce Gladwin – Stefano Ricci and Gianni Forte comment – expose the vulnerability of organisms to amplify the meaning of a communication that is restriction, obstacle… The differently able bodies on stage of Back to Back, in the dystopian landscapes of a roaring reality, beyond the artistic representation are truly present and acquire other meaning. A visionary parable of communication that with poetic ferocity disintegrates every prejudice, every stigma of compassion: if the body has expressive limitations, on stage these demarcations themselves become a different grammar. Our fears, our puritan tolerance, our moral blindness are blown away by Back to Back Theatre’s cruel tales of dangerous worlds, where diversity carries with it the amplification of knowledge, of inclusion, to heal the deformities of our awareness as apparently abled people… Because no matter what limitation a person may feel, it is up to us as the human consortium to remove it; this is what culture does, this is theatre to be deserved, this and much more is Back to Back Theatre”.

Back to Back Theatre comes to Italy for the first time for Biennale Teatro with Food Court, on stage at the Teatro Piccolo Arsenale on June 28th and 29th, a production that blends theatre performance, music concert and a torrent of images and emotions.

Biographical notes

Based in the Victorian regional centre of Geelong in Australia, the Back to Back Theatre company, founded in 1987, is led by an ensemble of actors – Simon Laherty, Sarah Mainwaring, Scott Price – who identify as having an intellectual disability or as neurodivergent and are considered among the most important representatives of Australian theatre.
From 2009 to 2023, the company has undertaken 86 national and 124 international seasons of its work. This includes presentations and screenings at the world’s pre-eminent contemporary arts and theatre festivals on every continent – 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.
Their many productions include small metal object (2007), their first international success, and Ganesh versus the Third Reich (2012), winner of the Helpmann award. We’re People Who Do Shows – Back to Back Theatre Performance, Politics, Visibility (2013) is the book that presents the company’s history.
Since 2009, the company has delivered workshops focused on artistic excellence and inclusive practice to over 34,000 participants.
Back to Back Theatre has received 22 national and international awards including the 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 its long-standing contribution to the development of Australian theatre. In 2015, the Artistic Director Bruce Gladwin received the Australia Council for the Arts’ Inaugural Award for Outstanding Achievement in Theatre. In 2019, the ensemble were awarded the ‘Best Ensemble’ Green Room Award.

Biennale Teatro
Biennale Teatro