Today 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.”