Before I talk about this wonderful production, I know many of my readers may be nervous about going back to the theatre. The Vaudeville Theatre safety protocols were thorough and enforced. I was temperature checked & checked in via the NHS app on the door. There was hand sanitiser available in the foyer. There was spaces left between seats and reminders that masks had to be worn throughout. None of this detracted from the atmosphere as the House was Full and everyone was excited to be back in a theatre. So a big thank you to all those who work at the Vaudeville Theatre for creating such a safe environment for us to see this show. I really appreciate you.
Now to the show! Public Domain is a new verbatim musical that was first live-streamed from the Southwark Playhouse in January 2021. This short run (27-30th May 2021) at the Vaudeville is the show’s first in-person premiere, and if you didn’t get a chance to see it online, I highly recommend moving fast to catch it while it is on. It is a clever production of an engaging and fresh new musical.
The talented duo of Francesca Forristal and Jordan Paul Clarke are the writers and performers of the show. They bounce between many varied characters with a wonderful agility, their performances are so engaging you never feel lost. There are no dramatic costume changes needed to know which character is speaking to you at any given time. What really elevates this musical, beyond what could have been a “let’s talk about social media” gimmicky piece, is the humanity they imbue the different “characters” with. Even Zuckerberg is quite sympathetically portrayed, while they are not afraid to shine a light on his hypocrisy, you are also reminded that he is a dad of young children and in a position of impossible power.
The true magic of the show is that while it doesn’t shy away from showing the damage caused by social media, the voices they use to shape their story are treated with respect not mockery. It would have been so easy to go for cheap jokes at the expense of a youtube influencer or a TikTok addict, but instead they showed the ridiculousness of the behaviour balanced with their vulnerability.
I laughed many times. I almost cried twice (I was not expecting that, and no it wasn’t because I was overwhelmed to be back in a theatre). Adam Lenson’s production is clever and innovative, using technology in ways that enhance the story and the performances, without detracting from the fundamental humanity of the piece. Lenson understands where the emotional power of this musical sits and how to make sure that fully lands with an audience. To adapt the online streamed version of this production to work for an in-person West End theatre audience so quickly is truly impressive. Following this short spell at the Vaudeville, I hope to see more of Public Domain, it deserves to find a home for a longer run. We need to make more space for exciting new musicals on our stages.
For more information about the show, or to book, please go here