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Meet Back to Back Theatre, the remarkable Australian company with perceived intellectual disabilities

As part of LIFT 2018, Back to Back Theatre bring their show Lady Eats Apple to the Barbican Theatre next week. Here members of the ensemble explain how they created the piece

Sarah Mainwaring, Romany Latham, Simon Laherty and Scott Price

Lady Eats Apple is being staged by Back to Back Theatre company at the Barbican next week, as part of LIFT, the London International Festival of Theatre. The remarkable Australian company is driven by an ensemble of actors with 'percieved intellectual disabilities'. The actors are co-authors as well as performers of the work, which is a large-scale production using intense sound and visuals to explore the fragility of existence. The show runs between 14 and 16 June. Here ensemble members Scott Price, Sarah Mainwaring and Simon Laherty and guest artist Romany Latham answer WhatsOnStage's questions about the show and the company.

What is the intention behind Back to Back Theatre?
SIMON: It's a theatre company made by people that have got an intellectual disability.
ALL: We decide on what we do and how to make it and when it's finished, that's the bottom line. The audience will tell us if it's a good show.

What can audiences expect from Lady Eats Apple?
SCOTT: A funny, experimental theatre piece and hopefully a rather immersive experience. It's an experience like no other.
ROMANY: It's a show that contains a journey of a group of people through three stages. They have the quality of myths.
ALL: Don't take your headphones off at any point. It's not broken. You're not paying attention. Watch the show and see how you feel at the end of it. Watch the show with open minds. Keep your perspectives open.

Is there a story to the show? If so, can you explain it?
SARAH: Lady Eats Apple is in three parts. It's a journey of characters through three different kinds of things. We started with the book of Genesis and worked through developing characters, they came out of that story. It's a story within a story.
ROMANY: It's about myths and a human's desire to create what's missing from what we know about the world. Scott is an anxious God who is creating his first world and doesn't quite know what to do with it. At the end there are just people, in their fundamental state. It's about the closeness of people and about the intimacies that come with that.
SCOTT: There is a big humongous, grand structure.
SARAH: It's amazing. There's this large dome, this white inflatable that opens to a darker inflatable. It fills me with awe and amazement when two worlds open up and envelop into each other and become a whole larger world.
SCOTT: It's just awe-inspiring.

What do you hope audiences will take away from watching it?
SARAH: We want to take them on an emotional roller coaster. Make something, an analogy for life.
SIMON: We want the audience to experience fear, terror, suspense. All at once.
SCOTT: I want the audience to feel uplifted. To have an exquisite experience.

Lady Eats Apple
© Angerer, Krafft

What have you most enjoyed about performing in the piece?
SIMON: I'd probably say when Sarah and I are on the balcony. It feels like just me and Sarah having alone time. We're together but no one else is around.
SCOTT: Just playing God. That's the best, just being God.
SARAH: Probably the scene with Simon and I because it's got lots of poetry and from the outside eye it would look really good seeing these two characters in the space, alone in an intimate moment together.

How did you come to perform in Lady Eats Apple?
SCOTT: It came through us devising, there wasn't an audition process.
SIMON: I've been here for fourteen years.
SCOTT: Yeah and Sarah you've been here the same amount as me. Sarah and I have been here eleven years. Simon wanted to create a Greek tragedy.
SIMON: Yeah lots of Shakespeare's plays are a tragedy and I thought it'd be interesting to try our own version.
SCOTT: My pop had died, I think Bruce's dad had passed away, again lots of changes in my life so we decided to do stuff around death. Mark's dad also just died.

How long did it take to create Lady Eats Apple?
SCOTT: Three years. Like, on and off.

What have been the greatest challenges in putting together Lady Eats Apple?
SIMON: Probably learning to walk through the dark before act three. I'm used to it now, but I found it challenging at the start.
SCOTT: At the time we were writing it, I was going through a bit of a crisis, lots of changes to my housing, all that kind of stuff and I think that was a big change for me. I think my own anxiety took over. I basically couldn't go on. So I think one of the biggest challenges was probably trying to find that voice again. It was like, ‘let's just try and get through it' and I think the play was a catalyst for what needed to happen.