Sunderland Culture, Sunderland Empire and National Theatre to create new Public Acts production celebrating the people and musicof Sunderland

Sunderland Culture, Sunderland Empire and National Theatre have announced a new production as part of the National Theatre’s Public Acts nationwide programme that creates extraordinary acts of theatre and community.

Director of Public Acts Emily Lim, Co-Director and Choreographer Dan Canham and Sunderland-born musician Ross Millard (The Futureheads) are teaming up to develop a new production Public Record, a celebration of the people and music of Sunderland performed by community members and professional artists from across the city.

Set in a live recording studio, we witness the community coming together to record an album and, in doing so, to make a record of who they are. Using a combination of dance and live music the piece will explore what it means to come together to write our own history, to capture our present and to look forward to a shared future. The piece is being developed in collaboration with community members and will feature an array of inspirational artists and musicians who represent the breadth of
Sunderland’s rich cultural identity.

The production will take place from 25 – 27 April 2025 at The Fire Station in Sunderland and will feature over 50 people from partner community groups.

Community groups across Sunderland will take part in weekly creative workshops with theatremakers, theatre trips and creative social opportunities from June, building towards the production of Public Record next year.

The local partner community groups taking part will include:

  • Connect Company – part of the beating heart of Sunderland Empire, a relaxed drama
    group for adults aged 18+ with additional needs. The group has toured shows and
    performed across the city of Sunderland
  • Back on the Map – working with and for local people to transform Hendon for the better.
    They work in the heart of the community to empower the people of Hendon by creating a
    better place, a stronger community and a local voice
  • Sunderland Nigerian Family Group – provides support for Nigerian families through
    shared experiences to encourage wellbeing for members and their children while
    navigating new cultures
  • The Alumni Group – an intergenerational group formed of Sunderland community
    members who took part in the 2023 nationwide Public Acts production of The Odyssey

Helen Green, Head of Performance at Sunderland Culture said, “We’re thrilled to be working on another prestigious project with National Theatre, especially one that is going to celebrate Sunderland’s fantastic musical landscape made even more exciting by the opportunity to incorporate some big dance routines. It’s an amazing opportunity for community members and local artists and musicians to create a new production alongside the National Theatre and Sunderland Empire.

“A key part of our ongoing collaboration with National Theatre is that community members with no experience of performing, as well as amateur musicians and dancers, will get to work with professional practitioners from around the UK as well as our own region who are hugely experienced and nationally respected. Those involved in The Odyssey last year had a brilliant time and a feature of Public Record is that some of those involved in last year’s production will be involved again this year.”

Anthony Hope, Senior Creative Learning Manager at Sunderland Empire said: “National Theatre’s Public Acts programme presents an incredible opportunity to celebrate Sunderland’s creative and community spirit.

“Following our involvement in 2023’s Public Acts performance of The Odyssey, we look forward to once again supporting diverse voices and communities from across all corners of our city to take centre stage, showcasing how a shared community theatre experience on an epic scale has the power to bring people together and make a lasting positive change that will resonate for the long term.”

Steven, a company member of The Odyssey, said, ‘”Being a lad who is born and bred in Sunderland it is an honour to be involved as we showcase what incredible, diverse talent and community spirit Sunderland has always had. Backed with the beautiful core values of Public Acts this will be a tremendous project.”

This new production follows last year’s epic multi-venue production of The Odyssey, reimagined with hundreds of community members in five episodes nationwide, including Sunderland. The fourth episode The Island of the Sun took place at The Fire Station in Sunderland in April 2023 and featured 24 local participants, with an epic finale production bringing performers from all five locations together on the National Theatre’s Olivier stage in August 2023.

The National Theatre has also released a new documentary, The Odyssey: A National Story, following the creation of the 2023 landmark Public Acts production The Odyssey which was reimagined with hundreds of community members in five episodes in Stoke-on-Trent, Doncaster, Trowbridge, Sunderland and at the NT.

The documentary gives a unique insight into how this epic production was brought to life, highlighting the power of theatre to bring communities together. It has been created by award-winning director Hanan Abdalla and is be available to watch on the NT’s YouTube channel here.

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