Back to Back Theatre presents MULTIPLE BAD THINGS

by | May 14, 2024

MULTIPLE BAD THINGS, the new work by Back to Back Theatre will come to Malthouse later this month direct from a season at Brussels Theater Nationale as part of Kunstenfestivaldesarts. Directed by Back to Back Artistic Associates Tamara Searle and Ingrid Voorendt, who co-authored the work with ensemble members and guest artists, it stars Simon Laherty, Sarah Mainwaring and Scott Price, and is the first major work for the Company by new directors in 17 years.

“This project began with conversations about identity and displacement,” says co-director Tamara Searle . “We were initially interested in the parallels between access to a country when you don’t have the right passport, and access to a society when you are disabled by it. Our ensemble members empathised with displaced people and felt a connection to their experiences. We began the project during covid lockdowns, a time of uncertainty and isolation. We felt compelled to connect global disputes and disenfranchisement with very domestic and intimate experiences of belonging and exclusion.”

Still a work in progress, co-director Ingrid Voorendt explains that initial ideas happened in mid-2021 and the work premiered in April 2024. “It’s still not finished though! We continue to develop the work through the process of performing it. One of the challenges along the way was finding the time to work on the show, as our ensemble did a lot of international touring in 2022 and 2023.”

The show was written collaboratively through a long process of improvising, transcribing, editing, and arranging. “Our making process was collective, conversational, and shared,” says Searle. “Sharing can be messy and sometimes difficult, and for us, sharing has involved listening deeply, stretching our imaginations, experiencing discomfort and confusion, and opening up to new perspectives and lived experiences.”

Devisor and performer Scott Price says the work is attempting to reflect on the world we are living in right now and the systems of oppression we participate in. “We are attempting to reflect how it feels to be alive in a time where there’s so much division both globally and domestically. We are asking – is it alright to live our small lives? Or is it necessary for us to take on the politics of the world, especially at this time?  These questions are significant for us and hopefully significant for our audience too.”

The work discusses many themes – identity, colonisation, misogyny, ableism – themes many of us are grappling with in our everyday lives. “We think it’s important to highlight that we all create and claim territory through land, politics, identity, language and bodies,” says Searle . “The creation of borders creates division and disconnects people. How can we maintain an openness, especially with people we disagree with?”

Based in the Victorian regional centre of Geelong, Back to Back Theatre is widely recognised as an Australian theatre company of national and international significance. The company is driven by an ensemble of actors who identify as having an intellectual disability or as neurodivergent. The company is considered one of Australia’s most important cultural exports.

Voorendt worked as a guest artist in many Back to Back community projects and programs before becoming an artistic associate in 2018. “I would describe my experience with the company as pivotal to my practice as an artist,” she says. “I adore working with the ensemble and the other artists with disability who are engaged by the company. I am continually challenged to expand my thinking, my understanding and my worldview.”

The show opened in Brussels May 10 with the company really having looked forward to sharing their work with a European audience. “We are here because we were invited to be part of the Kunstenfestivaldesarts, says devisor and performer: Sarah Mainwaring. “Yes, we hope for more international touring with this show!”

MULTIPLE BAD THINGS is theatre. It is not real. But in a world where self-righteously indignant voices so often drown out the most disenfranchised and vulnerable, this theatre sometimes feels real.

Says  Price, “There’s lots of humour! And a stunning moment of theatrical transformation.”

May 29 – June 9

Images: Ferne Millen

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