Cast partnering with National Theatre to create epic nationwide production of The Odyssey in collaboration with Yorkshire writer Tajinder Singh Hayer and Doncaster community

Today Cast announces a new collaboration with the National Theatre to create a multi-location nationwide production of The Odyssey produced in partnership with local communities, theatres and artists nationwide. 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, nationwide 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 with our community companies as a universal story of resilience, loss, healing and hope for today.

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. Cast will be producing the second episode of The Odyssey in partnership with the NT, which will be written by playwright Tajinder Singh Hayer and performed by members of the local community. 

Cast is committed to working with the Doncaster community and has worked alongside the NT Public Acts Team to provide joy across the past two years. Despite pausing the production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle in March 2020, rehearsals are now underway for the performance of The Doncastrian Chalk Circle which will take place over the August Bank Holiday weekend in 2022.
 

Tajinder Singh Hayer’s past work has engaged with Yorkshire identity, community and the fantastical: 2016 saw Freedom Studios create a postapocalyptic space in a disused Marks and Spencer for North Country; 2021’s Ghost Stories from an Old Country saw a British Asian family trying to make sense of their personal and community histories.

Deborah Rees, Director of Cast, said:
“We’re absolutely thrilled to be part of the ambitious, next phase of Public Acts, a nationwide company, with Doncaster as an important stop on this epic journey. To be able to continue working with groups across Doncaster for The Doncastrian Chalk Circle this summer and to have the next step on our adventure in place, is wonderful news to be able to share. We are delighted that we can offer the people of Doncaster so many excellent creative opportunities and joyful productions after what has been such a challenging few years for so many.”


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.”


Tajinder Singh Hayer, Writer, said:
“It’s tremendously exciting to be writing in partnership with a community cast. And it feels special and apt to be adapting The Odyssey; this story that has been passed through so many different voices through the millennia and is now getting a Yorkshire inflection”.

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 local playwrights,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: also including Restoke in Stoke-on-Trent, Trowbridge Town Hall in Trowbridge and Sunderland Culture and Sunderland Empire in Sunderland.

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 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 partners, 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. This performance will feature a total of 140 people including six professional actors, six live musicians and three cameo performance groups from across the UK. 

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

Dates

Episode

Venue

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

29-30 April 2023

Episode 4 – The Island of the Sun

Sunderland Culture & Sunderland Empire

27 – 29 August 2023

Episode 5 - The Underworld  

Oliver theatre, National Theatre