Geelong’s Back to Back Theatre wins prestigious 2024 Golden Lion Award

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Geelong’s Back to Back Theatre wins prestigious 2024 Golden Lion Award

2011 Back to Back Theatre Ganesh Versus the Third Reich. Credit: Jeff Busby
Words by Staff Writer

The Venice Biennale has announced Back to Back Theatre as recipients of the 2024 Golden Lion Award for Theatre.

The Venice Biennale has bestowed Australia’s Back to Back Theatre with the esteemed 2024 Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theatre. This prestigious accolade marks a significant milestone for the pioneering theatre company, renowned for its groundbreaking approach to performance and its dedication to challenging societal norms.

The Venice Biennale stands as a pinnacle of cultural celebration, delving into the realms of art, architecture, and beyond to explore contemporary issues and ideologies. Each year, it bestows the coveted Golden Lion across various artistic disciplines, recognising outstanding contributions to the world of creativity. Among the illustrious list of past recipients are luminaries such as Armando Punzo and Brian Eno, testament to the Biennale’s discerning eye for talent.

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Back to Back Theatre’s selection for this prestigious award comes as no surprise to those familiar with their innovative work. Described by the Venice Biennale as “the pioneer of renewal in Australian theatre,” Back to Back Theatre has spent over three decades captivating audiences worldwide. Their productions transcend traditional boundaries, delving into social, political, and philosophical themes with fearless determination.

In response to the news, the directors of the Venice Biennale’s Theatre Department, Stefano Ricci and Gianni Forte, lauded Back to Back Theatre for their visionary contributions. They commended the company for dismantling stereotypes and challenging perceptions, declaring their productions as a testament to the power of inclusion and diversity.

“Back to Back Theatre present 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.”


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Members of Back to Back Ensemble expressed their astonishment and gratitude upon learning of the award. “Wow, this is a very prestigious prize,” they remarked. “We are amazed and excited at what the award represents as it can open up artistic freedoms and allow us to continue to do what we want to do. It is thrilling to win a Golden Lion and we are very honoured.”

The co-CEOs of Back to Back Theatre, Artistic Director Bruce Gladwin and Executive Producer Tim Stitz, echoed these sentiments, acknowledging the collective effort of their team in achieving this accolade. They expressed their gratitude for the recognition and eagerly anticipated the opportunity to showcase their work at the upcoming Biennale Teatro award ceremony.

Back to Back Theatre’s upcoming production, MULTIPLE BAD THINGS, promises to captivate audiences both locally and internationally. With premieres scheduled in Geelong, Brussels, and Melbourne, the company continues to push boundaries and inspire audiences with their unique artistic vision.

Founded in the regional centre of Geelong, Back to Back Theatre has garnered widespread acclaim for its commitment to inclusivity and artistic excellence. With a repertoire spanning over a decade and a half, the company has left an indelible mark on the global theatre scene, with performances at renowned venues and festivals worldwide.

Through their innovative approach to storytelling and their dedication to community engagement, Back to Back Theatre has received numerous accolades, including the prestigious International Ibsen Award and the Helpmann Award for Best Australian Work. Artistic Director Bruce Gladwin’s outstanding contributions to theatre have been recognised with the Australia Council for the Arts’ Inaugural Award for Outstanding Achievement.

As Back to Back Theatre prepares to embark on this exciting new chapter, audiences eagerly anticipate the opportunity to experience their transformative productions firsthand. With the Golden Lion now adorning their mantle, the company stands poised to continue pushing boundaries and redefining the landscape of contemporary theatre.

For more information about Back to Back Theatre and their upcoming productions, visit their website at