The National Theatre has announced an ambitious new staging of Greek epic The Odyssey.
The new, multi-location production will tour the UK, produced in partnership with local communities, theatres and artists.
The show will form part of the National’s 60th anniversary programme next year, and the fifth anniversary of their Public Acts initiative to create acts of theatre and community around the UK.
In collaboration with hundreds of community members and professional artists, Homer’s adventures of Odysseus are going to be reimagined across four episodes taking place in Spring 2023, and culminating in a fifth and final episode performed 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 in April 2023: Episode 1 – The Lotus Eaters in Restoke in Stoke-on-Trent (1-2 April 2023); Episode 2 – The Cyclops in Cast in Doncaster (15-16 April 2023); Episode 3 – The Four Winds in Trowbridge Town Hall in Trowbridge (22-23 April 2023;); and Episode 4 – The Island of the Sun in The Fire Station (for Sunderland Culture in partnership with Sunderland Empire) in Sunderland (28-29 April 2023).
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 called The Underworld, 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 performance groups from across the UK.
Emily Lim, the Director of Public Acts for the National Theatre 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.”
The National Theatre is currently playing The Corn is Green in its Lyttelton Theatre, and Small Island in the Olivier Theatre. Its production of The Ocean at the End of the Lane is currently playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre in the West End.