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Creating extraordinary acts of theatre and community

Public Acts builds sustained partnerships with theatres and community organisations across the UK who share our vision of theatre as a force for change.

Since 2017, we have been working in partnership with organisations nationwide delivering visionary work in their communities, in Greater London, Hornchurch and Doncaster. Our community members take part in regular workshops, theatre trips and creative social opportunities. Through our partnerships, and in collaboration with theatre artists and professional performers, the community comes together to make ambitious large-scale productions.

To celebrate the fifth anniversary of Public Acts in 2023, The Odyssey was reimagined as 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 were adapted for today as a universal story of resilience, loss, healing and hope.

Our values

We believe:

  • Theatre making is a powerful form of community building
  • Everyone is an artist and has the right to artistic expression
  • We do our best work when we learn from one another, as people and organisations
  • Our core values: Open, Generous and Brave

We hope:

  • To give people the space to come together and see ourselves and the world differently
  • To connect people, ideas and places
  • To create space for discovery, difference and joy
  • To build community and make great theatre


Public Record (2025)

Public Acts are currently working in partnership with Sunderland Culture and Sunderland Empire to produce 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.

Throughout 2024 we will be delivering a programme of creative workshops with our Sunderland-based community partner organisations including Back on the Map, Connect Company and the Sunderland Nigerian Family Group.

The production will take place from 25 – 27 April 2025 at The Fire Station in Sunderland.

People in a rehearsal room, some sitting and some standing. A person in the centre of the image, with their arms wide open and looking to the left.

Rehearsals in Sunderland for The Odyssey: Episode 4 – The Island of the Sun (2023). Photo © Joseph Lynn.

The Odyssey (2023)

The Odyssey was the five-episode story of Odysseus’ epic journey, created by and performed at our partner organisations across the UK. The journey of Odysseus, the most resilient of heroes, told a universal story of endurance, loss, healing and of finding a way forwards together. We are so proud of our collaboration with communities from across the country who told this story of hope as one united national company.

The first four episodes were created, written and performed by local artists and communities in four partner organisations across the country: Restoke in Stoke-on-Trent, Cast in Doncaster, Trowbridge Town Hall and Sunderland Culture in partnership with Sunderland Empire.

The fifth episode’s company was made up of professional actors and community members from each of our partner locations, with 146 members taking to the Olivier Stage at the National Theatre in August 2023.

Each part of The Odyssey was written by a local writer: Gabriella Gay for Stoke-Upon-Trent, Tajinder Singh Hayer for Doncaster, Florence Espeut-Nickless for Trowbridge, Lindsay Rodden for Sunderland, and returning writer Chris Bush for Episode 5 in London, who was also dramaturg for the whole story.

Play Video

The Odyssey – A National Story

Created by award-winning director Hanan Abdalla, this new documentary captures the story behind our epic, multi-venue reimagining of the Odyssey – featuring moving portraits of the company members as they prepare to be on stage, some for the first time in their lives.

The Galley

Journeying alongside the productions, The Galley appeared in public places including markets, local beaches and parks to collect messages of remembrance from the local community.

A 10-metre-long ship crafted from sustainable materials including bamboo and rope, The Galley represented Odysseus’ epic voyage and the nationwide connection between the communities who told the story. After each of the episodes, The Galley transformed into the stage of a closing ceremony to pass the baton of the storytelling forward.

The Galley was created by Mervyn Millar and Ridiculous Solutions.

A wooden boat covered in ribbons being carried into the sea by six people

Photo © Joseph Lynn

Community partners

Partnership is the bedrock of the Public Act’s programme. We work in collaboration with social change and arts organisations delivering visionary work in their commnities across the country.

A community ensemble onstage all lifting candles and dressed in grey, white and cream colours

Pericles & As You Like It

Theatre partner:
National Theatre, London
Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, Outer East London and South Essex

Community partners:
Bromley by Bow Centre
Body & Soul
Havering Asian Social Welfare Association
Open Age
Thames Reach
The Faith and Belief Forum

Performers in the National Thetare Public Acts performance of The Doncastrian Chalk Circle

The Doncastrian Chalk Circle & The Magic of Wild Heather

Theatre partner:
Cast, Doncaster
National Theatre, London

Community partners:
Cast Young Company
Changing Lives
Conversation Club
Edlington Community Organisation
Right Up Our Street

A woman sits in a deck chair. Two people stand next to her.

The Odyssey

Theatre partners:
Cast, Doncaster
National Theatre, London
Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, Outer East London and South Essex
Restoke, Stoke-on-Trent
Sunderland Culture and Sunderland Empire, Sunderland
Trowbridge Town Hall, Trowbridge
Trybe House Theatre, London

What we’ve made together



This is probably the first time ever in my life that I felt accepted, and cherished, for who I was as a person… everyone found a way to support and encourage me.

– Doncaster Community Member, 2021



An amazing experience – life changing, and in some ways life affirming, seeing so many people from so many backgrounds working together.– Hornchurch community member, 2019

The Magic of Wild Heather

A community cabaret with food, music and storytelling, created at Cast by the people of Doncaster in August 2021.

A portrait collection of different people

Stories to Get Us Through

A storytelling podcast written and performed by the people of Doncaster, inspired by real life events and created during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

The impact of Public Acts

Since 2017, we have collaborated with Professor Helen Nicholson and our Public Acts community to research the impact of the programme on our social change, theatre and community partners, as well as our own organisation. Read on for a summary of the research findings.

Finding community

Public Acts supported participants to find community through:

  • Connecting people, community organisations and theatres
  • Creating the conditions for individuals to overcome isolation
  • Building community cohesion among participants from a wide range of backgrounds

Increased confidence

Almost all participants reported increased confidence due to:

  • A sense of achievement as a result of taking part in the programme
  • Improved physical and mental health
  • Encouragement to pursue new creative interests

Public Acts values everybody as individuals – making a show that’s so personal to everybody is why we kept coming back – so genuine – real community.– London Community member, August 2023

Delivering for our community partners

The programme delivered for our community partners by:

  • Increasing their high-quality arts and cultural activities
  • Encouraging partners to reconsider the role of creative activity in delivering their core aims and values
  • Developing staff confidence in approaching arts and cultural organisations for future collaboration
  • Increasing understanding of the skills and resources needed to undertake successful partnership work

It’s that feeling of being part of something, and belonging – making a positive contribution and being acknowledged and valued for your skills.
– Restoke Community member, March 2023

Catalysing change

Public Acts catalysed change for theatre partners by:

  • Building sustained relationships with participants and comunity organisations, which shaped new agendas
  • Facilitating wider changemaking by strengthening inclusive theatrial practices and including staff from different parts of our partner organisations
  • Emphasising the importance of inclusivity in theatre and its role in social justice
  • Welcoming diverse audiences and attracting significant numbers who were new to theatre
Ayesha Dharker as Simonida with cast, surrounding a Maypole, in Pericles
Play Video

Public Acts: A Story of Hope

Participants from the first two years of Public Acts, Director Emily Lim, and lead researcher Dr Helen Nicholson share what the impact of the programme has been for them and their communities.

Our funders

Theatre Nation Partnerships is generously supported by Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Fund and Garfield Weston Foundation.

Public Acts is supported by Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Fund, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, The CareTech Charitable Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation, Mosawi Foundation, The 29th May 1961 Charitable Trust and Susan Miller and Byron Grote.

Find out more about supporting our work


The Public Acts team

Emily Lim
Ros Terry
Senior Producer
Lara Taylor
Amy Sutters
Programme Coordinator (on secondment)
Tom Chamberlain
Programme Coordinator

If you would like to get in touch with the Public Acts team please email

The Odyssey photos © Brinkhoff-Mögenburg
As You Like It
photos © Camilla Greenwell
The Doncastrian Chalk Circle
photos © Robling Photography
The Magic of Wild Heather 
photo © Sam Taylor