Tuesday, September 26

Public Domain – Vaudeville Theatre

There is a fresh breeze blowing through the world of musical theatre from the general direction of Forristal and Clarke.  This very on-trend musical does not hold back in its dissection of social media, and as we emerge, bleary eyed from the latest lockdown, it is making a very relevant point.

It is all too easy to reach for the smart phone, iPad or laptop to see what is going on outside your front door, when you cannot leave the house, we are sociable animals and need interaction.  Hidden, lurking behind this online socialisation is a world of capitalism, where every click is monitored, every search is logged.  

With this in mind, ‘Public Domain’ attempts to give us a musical, collating the words of others, via Tweets, Instagram posts and You Tube videos.  This rather unusual approach to staging a musical has added a new genre to musical theatre.  This is welcome, as a sidestep away from the fantastical but has a documentary type quality to it. 

Enough of the seriousness though, if you think you are in for a heavy evening of ‘I told you so’, you are but with a nudge, and a wink and a very large dose of humour.  Even though the show is verbatim, using the words from social media users, the presentation of this is extremely well thought out.  The stage is laid out with three screens, Instagram posts to the left, You Tube to the right and Facebook is central.  Designed by the team, Matt Powell, Libby Todd, Christian Czornyj, Sam Waddington and Matt Daw, the set, sound and lighting has been designed to draw you into the social media world and very cleverly captures the essence of these platforms, even Tik Tok gets a mention!   All the characters are played by Francesca Forristal and Jordan Paul Clarke and under Adam Lenson’s direction, this is sleek, making the 70-minute show finish far too quickly.  Having said that, you do walk away wanting more, and maybe that is a good thing.

Production Photography
Jane Hobson

Even though the idea acts as a prescient warning, it is not only the social media content that ticks the boxes.  We must not forget that this is a musical.  The music is written by Clarke, with assistance from Joe and Nikki Davison from Auburn Jam Music with the production and orchestrations – the songs are catchy, and the tempo keeps up with the fast-paced show.

Having visited a Banksy art exhibition earlier in the day, this play reminded me of his words – ‘In the future, everybody will be anonymous for 15 minutes’.   In creating this musical, Clarke and Forristal have taken off the rose-tinted spectacles that we have been wearing and have laid the facts bear for us to see.  We all want our 15 minutes of fame, but maybe now, fame is too easily achieved in our world where everyone can film and edit their own material.  Facebook does not get away lightly during the play, Mark Zuckerberg gets his fair share of the treatment, but this more serious side of the show questions whether Facebook has accountability and looks at the capitalist nature of these social media platforms.

‘Public Domain’ was very successfully streamed and earned the right to appear in the West End, and tonight, they proved that this show belongs there.  It is a credit to the creators, that they not only brought a show ‘of our time’, to the stage, but they have made sure that this has been produced with care and attention to detail, whilst also making it a very enjoyable evening for their audience.

This live world premiere is available to see at The Vaudeville Theatre in London until 30th May 2021.  Catch it while you can, and hopefully, there can be another outing for this show at some point in the future. 

To buy tickets go to https://www.nimaxtheatres.com/shows/public-domain/

Reviewer: Caroline Worswick

Reviewed: 27th May 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★

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