The Fire Station in Sunderland is joining venues across the country in Stoke, Doncaster, Trowbridge – and at the National Theatre (NT) in London – for The Underworld, the culmination of the NT’s multi-location production of The Odyssey.
The Underworld is the fifth and final episode of The Odyssey, following the first four episodes performed earlier this year including The Island of The Sun at The Fire Station and others at Restoke in Stoke, Cast in Doncaster, Trowbridge Town Hall in Trowbridge.
As part of a groundbreaking partnership between Sunderland Culture, Sunderland Empire, and the National Theatre, The Fire Station played host to the fourth episode, The Island of the Sun, in April.
About 30 dedicated volunteers from across Sunderland, representing all ages and backgrounds, performed the enchanting tale of Odysseus’s voyage for two nights at Sunderland’s newest music and performance venue. The episode was written by Lindsay Rodden and directed by Annie Rigby.
Now, 11 participants from Sunderland who performed in The Island of the Sun will be joining the community company at the National Theatre.
One participant from Sunderland who will be performing in The Underworld, Beth, aged 19, said: “From the age of eight I have travelled to London to look at the National Theatre building hoping I would perform on one of their stage one day.
“Now I am so excited to be going on that journey with a supportive cast on my journey to become a more experienced performer.”
The final episode brings together community performers from all previous performances as well as members recruited through Public Acts founding community partners, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, and Trybe House Theatre in London.
Joining the 50 London participants and 40 participants from the previous four locations are Amy Booth-Steel (Blue Jean) as Calypso, Tarinn Callender (Hamilton) as Telemachus, Sharon Duncan-Brewster (Dune) as Odysseus, Victoria Hamilton-Barritt (Hex) as Poseidon, Emma Prendergast (Eastenders) as Athena, and Zubin Varla (Tammy Faye) as Hades.
Written by Chris Bush, with music composed by Jim Fortune and directed by Emily Lim, the fifth episode will be staged as a full-scale musical production at the National Theatre on August 26 to 28.
Held captive by the nymph Calypso, Odysseus has all but given up hope of ever returning home. Back on Ithaca, her son Telemachus plots a rescue, and high above on Mount Olympus, the Gods convene to set her one final trial – a voyage to Hades, land of the dead.
Journeying alongside the productions is The Galley, a 10- metre-long ship crafted from sustainable materials including bamboo and rope, representing Odysseus’ epic voyage and the nationwide connection between the communities who will tell the story.
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The Galley travelled up to Sunderland in April to help promote the production of The Island of the Sun and members of the public were invited to write their own messages to lost loved ones and tie colourful ribbons onto the ship.
Producers for The Island of the Sun, Sunderland Culture’s Helen Green and the Sunderland Empire’s Anthony Hope said, “This is such an incredible experience for our community cast – to nurture their skills, bolster their confidence, and the opportunity to forge life-long friendships has been nothing short of extraordinary.
“The ongoing partnership between Sunderland Culture, Sunderland Empire and the National Theatre promises even more exciting opportunities in the next few years”.