National Theatre announces epic nationwide production of The Odyssey across five UK locations, in collaboration with communities and artists across the country
A new landmark nationwide community project celebrating five years of Public Acts - The Odyssey will be reimagined by five writers from across the country and told in five episodes at partner venues nationwide
The National Theatre announces a new multi-location nationwide production of The Odyssey produced in partnership with local communities, theatres and artists across the country. Taking place in 2023, the production will form part of the National Theatre’s 60th anniversary programme.
In celebration of the fifth anniversary of Public Acts, the NT’s nationwide programme to create extraordinary acts of theatre and community, The Odyssey will be an epic, multi-venue production made in collaboration with hundreds of community members and professional artists from across the country. Through this landmark project, the adventures of Odysseus will be reimagined for today with community companies as a universal story of resilience, loss, healing and hope.
The Odyssey will be told in four episodes taking place across the country in Spring 2023, culminating with a fifth and final episode on the Olivier stage at the National Theatre in August 2023. The lead creative team for the project is Director of Public Acts Emily Lim, playwright and lyricist Chris Bush, who will write the final episode and act as Dramaturg for the first four episodes in collaboration with playwrights from across the country, and music composer Jim Fortune who will compose music for the final episode and write a finale song that will feature across all five episodes.
The first four episodes will be created and performed by local artists and communities in four partner organisations across the country in April 2023: Restoke in Stoke-on-Trent, Cast in Doncaster, Trowbridge Town Hall in Trowbridge and The Fire Station in Sunderland (for Sunderland Culture in partnership with Sunderland Empire).
The four artists writing each of these four episodes in co-creation with their communities are Gabriella Gay (Stoke), Tajinder Singh Hayer (Doncaster), Florence Espeut-Nickless (Trowbridge) and Lindsay Rodden (Sunderland).
The culmination of The Odyssey journey, the fifth episode, will be staged as an epic full-scale musical production at the National Theatre on 27-29 August 2023. This final production will feature community performers from all four nationwide companies, as well as members recruited through Public Acts founding community partners in London, founding theatre partner Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, and Trybe House Theatre in London who are working with Public Acts for the first time this year. The performance will feature a total of 140 people including six professional actors, six live musicians and three cameo performance groups from across the UK.
Emily Lim, Director of Public Acts said, “We are so excited to be bringing The Odyssey to life with such an inspiring group of theatre-makers. In light of everything that’s happened over the past two years it feels incredibly special, and right, to be coming together from all corners of the country to tell a story about how we heal and move forwards after a period of profound loss and change. We hope the project will create an unforgettable gesture of unity, creativity and radical joy which everyone can feel a part of.”
Public Acts is supported by Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Fund, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation, The Mosawi Foundation and Wates Foundation.
Schedule of performances
|1-2 April 2023||Episode 1 – The Lotus Eaters||Restoke|
|15-16 April 2023||Episode 2 – The Cyclops||Cast in Doncaster|
|22-23 April 2023||Episode 3 – The Four Winds||Trowbridge Town Hall|
|28-29 April 2023
|Episode 4 – The Island of the Sun||The Fire Station (For Sunderland Culture in partnership with Sunderland Empire)|
|27 – 29 August 2023||Episode 5 – The Underworld||Oliver theatre, National Theatre|
Public Acts is the National Theatre’s nationwide initiative to create extraordinary acts of theatre and community. We make artistically excellent, ambitious and inclusive participatory theatre in partnership with those who share our vision for change.
The programme was first established in 2017, with our founding partners Queens Theatre Hornchurch and eight brilliant community partners: the Bromley by Bow Centre, Body & Soul, Coram, DABD, Havering Asian Social Welfare Association (HASWA), Open Age, Thames Reach and the Faith & Belief Forum.
Public Acts produced Pericles (National Theatre) in 2018 and As You Like It (produced by Queens Theatre Hornchurch in partnership with the NT) in 2019. In August 2022, the team will present The Doncastrian Chalk Circle in Doncaster in partnership with Cast.
Throughout the pandemic we continued to connect with our community members through online activity including a podcast project called Stories To Get Us Through and a new musical film, We Begin Again, created in partnership with The Guardian. In 2021 we produced The Magic of Wild Heather, a community cabaret, in Doncaster.
Public Acts is inspired by Public Works at the Public Theater, described as a ‘ground-breaking programme of participatory theatre in New York’, and the visionary participatory work of many theatre companies across the UK in the past decades.