(Michael Kaufmann’s article appeared 3/22/22 on Limelight; Photo: Back to Back Theatre’s The Shadow Whose Prey the Hunter Becomes. Photo © Jeff Busby.)

The pioneering group’s work with neurodiverse performers has been recognised with the ‘Nobel Prize’ of theatre awards.

Geelong’s Back to Back Theatre has received the 2022 International Ibsen Award, becoming the first Australian company to be recognised. Established and funded by the Norwegian Government to mark the legacy of playwright Henrik Ibsen, the prestigious award recognises excellence and innovation in the international theatre industry. The award will be presented in September during the International Ibsen Festival.

The Victoria-based company works with neurodiverse performers and artists, creating productions that challenge public perceptions about neurodiversity and people who live with it. The works are developed internally by the creative staff and the performers. Back to Back has toured successfully both nationally and abroad, receiving acclaim from international publications, including the New York Times.

On 20 March, members of the company were invited to a digital meeting with the award committee to discuss a future guest performance at the festival. This was in reality a guise, and the committee broke the news that Back to Back Theatre had been selected as this year’s recipients.

“Back to Back put people first. Their work is first and foremost a matter of being a person and after that a matter of action – the agency of doing, of making, of sharing, of taking responsibility. A poetics of action that has had far-reaching consequences on the lives of those – who encounter the work,” said the committee in announcing the award.

Dubbed the “Nobel Prize” of theatre awards, the recipients will receive 2.5 million Norwegian Kroner ($385,000 AUD) and will be invited to participate in the annual International Ibsen Festival in Oslo this September. Past winners include Théâtre du Soleil, American performer Taylor Mac and legendary British director Peter Brook, who received the inaugural award in 2008.

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