The National Theatre has today announced that Body & Soul will be one of the community organisations involved in Public Acts, its long-term plan to create ambitious works of participatory theatre with communities nationwide.
The announcement describes how Public Acts will be built on sustained partnerships with organisations that share the National Theatre’s vision for theatre as a force for change. Over the next two years the NT will work with the Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch and a number of community organisations across Greater London. Through these partnerships the NT will invite members of London’s diverse communities to take part in regular creative activity and join us in the creation of theatre productions.
The first of these will be a new production of Pericles on the Olivier stage in August 2018. It will feature a small cast of professional actors together with a large community ensemble who will be cast through their connection with community partner organisations. The NT has commissioned Chris Bush, a writer with extensive experience working with large community ensembles, to adapt Shakespeare’s Pericles which will be directed by NT resident director Emily Lim. The production will also feature cameo performances from a diverse range of local performance groups.
Public Acts is inspired by Public Works, The Public Theater’s ground-breaking programme of participatory theatre in New York.
Emma Colyer, director of Body & Soul, says: “We’re delighted to be collaborating with the National Theatre on this ambitious new project. The programmes at Body & Soul have long harnessed the power of creative expression as a means of transforming the impact of past adversity, so Public Acts feels like the perfect project for us to be involved in.
“It’s an honour for us to be chosen by an organisation with the expertise, profile and creative vision of the National Theatre, but equally I’m confident that our members – with their talents, energy and unique perspectives – will be a huge asset to the project. I can’t wait to see how it develops.”
The first term of Public Acts sessions has already begun at Body & Soul. The theme for this term of sessions is transformation. As human beings we constantly transform, grow and change, but what does it mean for something or someone to become something other than itself? What happens to us when we witness this? The sessions are designed to explore these big ideas through exercises in movement and storytelling, using a range of music, visual stimuli, sound and rhythm, and simple text as starting points of inspiration.
In the second half of the autumn term the group will be encouraged to use the skills they have developed to explore autobiographical material drawn from their own experiences, developing characters, narratives and story structures. This may result in an informal sharing at the end of the term, which will provide an opportunity for the group to celebrate their achievements publicly and to gain the confidence and pride that comes with the unique experience of performing in front of an audience.
Sessions throughout the term are being led by Rachael Nanyonjo, a choreographer, movement director and director. She has extensive experience working in community settings in the UK, Uganda and Germany, and in professional theatres including the Old Vic, Chichester Festival Theatre and The Jerwood Space – Dance East. Rachael will be joined for two sessions this term by Imogen Knight, who will be working as choreographer on next summer’s production of Pericles at the National Theatre.