By Peter Maddern
Oddlands is the first foray into screen entertainment for the Geelong based Back to Back Theatre company. What separates Back to Back is its sole use of intellectually disabled actors which, since its formation in 1987, has drawn audiences, locally, nationally and internationally.
When Artistic Director Bruce Gladwin first observed their work as a young graduate he saw it as the opportunity to be involved in the creation of a new art form. That was in 1999, and today his enthusiasm for Back to Back’s work is as strong as ever.
Through the production of Oddlands, he has seized on an opportunity to both take their work to broader audiences and also create opportunities for his team as BtB is often the first port of call by casting agents looking for talent with their teams’ special characteristics.
Oddlands is about two workers, engaged by the somewhat sinister Civix and sent by bus into a dystopia to clean a contaminated area. There, for Des (Simon Laherty) and Tam (Sonia Teuben), all goes well until they come across a surviving human which upsets their normal progress.
Made for showing on ABC TV, the darkly humoured Oddlands plays on the medieval trope of the ship of fools and this half hour suggests further iterations of the main characters and situations could successfully ply themselves across a series.
While Gladwin is accredited with the script he is at pains to point out the collaborative effort with his performers that goes into all their work. Even with the input of Matchbox Pictures and representatives of the financiers Gladwin maintains it is the work of his team that stands up in the final form. Both Laherty and Teuben look very much at ease in this production notwithstanding the different rules and rigours of film making – from big crews lurching around every day to performing for an in- your-face camera rather than a seated audience no closer than five metres away.
This film premieres at the Adelaide Film Festival on Tuesday as it has been supported the AFF’s Hive workshop initiative that matches film makers with creative people from other art forms. Based on the likely success of Oddlands, we should expect more small and silver screen output from the Back to Back ensemble in the years to come.