National Theatre

National Theatre and Theatre Nation Partnerships

Theatre Nation Partnerships is our nationwide strategic touring project which aims to grow and sustain audiences for live theatre in England.

The project sees The National join forces with theatres in six areas around the country, where we are helping to broaden and increase their audience for drama through touring, working with schools, and creating theatre with local communities.

Just over halfway through the initial three-year phase of Theatre Nation Partnerships, we’re on track to achieve our target of reaching 200,000 people from under-engaged areas and demographics, with an audience to date of over 100,000.

We are beginning to see tangible change. An adapted version of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time toured directly into 60 secondary schools in Autumn 2018, reaching 13,200 pupils and allowing our partner theatres to forge strong relationships with high priority local schools. This quickly delivered results on our touring production of Macbeth, which saw a huge uplift in schools attendance at these theatres – 43% of attenders in TNP areas were school students against a 29% tour average. Meanwhile, work on wider audience development strategies saw Macbeth also achieve a big uplift in first-time bookers – 55% of audiences were first time bookers in the TNP areas against 35% in other venues.

Where are the partner areas?

Doncaster with Cast
Leicester with Curve
Greater Manchester with The Lowry
Wakefield with Theatre Royal Wakefield
Trowbridge with Trowbridge Town Hall
Wolverhampton with Wolverhampton Grand Theatre
Sunderland with Sunderland Empire & Sunderland Culture
Stoke-on-Trent with Restoke and Regent Theatre & Victoria Hall
Outer East London and South Essex with Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch
Peterborough with Landmark Theatres, Peterborough New Theatre & Key Theatre
North Devon with Landmark Theatres, The Queen’s Theatre Barnstaple & The Landmark

Partner Meetings

Regular partner meetings have become invaluable forums for collaboration and knowledge exchange. Taking place this year at partner theatres in Doncaster and Sunderland, the meetings brought together teams from executive directors, learning, marketing, programming and audience development teams from our seven partner theatres across England, with topics that included engaging schools, digital marketing and access.

We have helped these theatres develop joined-up approaches to programming and audience development and to plan and test audience development strategies locally. In turn, the team from the National have gained invaluable insight into local audiences, education networks and priorities across key parts of the country.

Public Acts

Public Acts is the National Theatre’s new nationwide initiative to create extraordinary acts of theatre and community.

The programme creates ambitious new works of participatory theatre and is built on sustained partnerships with theatres and community organisations across the UK who share our vision of theatre as a force for change.

The first Public Acts production was Pericles in August 2018 at the NT on the Olivier Theatre. The second production was As You Like It in August 2019 at the Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch. In 2020, the NT partnered with Cast in Doncaster for a third Public Acts production, working with community partners from the local area.

The Caucasian Chalk Circle

In August 2020, the third Public Acts production, a musical adaptation of The Caucasian Chalk Circle, was scheduled to play at Cast in Doncaster. Due to the pandemic this was put on hold until 2022. The production, adapted by Sheffield-born writer Chris Bush, took on the new title of The Doncastrian Chalk Circle.

In a divided community, our reluctant hero, Grusha, risks everything to rescue an abandoned baby and raise him as her own. This new version of Brecht's classic, is a heartrending and gripping tale of the families we choose, filled with passion, hope, and plenty of Yorkshire grit and humour.

The Odyssey

This national, multi-venue production is told over five parts, with each episode of Odysseus’ journey created and performed by local artists and communities from four partner organisations: Restoke in Stoke-on-Trent, Cast in Doncaster, Trowbridge Town Hall in Trowbridge and The Fire Station (for Sunderland Culture in partnership with Sunderland Empire) in Sunderland.

Episode 2: The Cyclops, written by Tajinder Singh Hayer, was performed by a Doncaster community company at Cast in April 2023.

Following a close escape from the land of the Lotus-Eaters, Odysseus and their crew encounter a new foe, this time in the form of the one-eyed Cyclops, Polyphemus. Tensions are brewing between Odysseus and their crewmates, but when they find themselves trapped in the mysterious mansion of the Cyclops, they all must join forces to stay alive.

The final part of Odysseus’ epic journey culminates in a full-scale musical production on the Olivier stage at the National Theatre, bringing together community performers from all four partner organisations, and members recruited through Public Acts founding community partners in London, founding theatre partner  Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, and Trybe House Theatre in London.

Find out more or book tickets here