Public Domain – Live Stream
Public Domain is a new musical by Forristal and Clarke which is currently being Live Streamed from Southwark Playhouse. It looks at the impact of social media and is told entirely in Verbatim, with every word spoken or sung taken from YouTube, real Tweets or Instagram posts.
The show follows two very different Vloggers as well as Zuckerberg and his wife Chan. We also get glimpses behind the scenes of Facebook with the video moderators as well as hearing from our older generation about how they use technology. Public Doman talks abut connection and it feels so utterly relevant and up to date. Due to Lockdown we are more reliant on social media than ever for our connections with the outside world, friends and family. The show is packed full of ideas and sometimes this does feel a bit jumbled, unsure as to what the ultimate takeaway is supposed to be for the audience but hopefully with further development this can be distilled to enable to show to hit home even more.
Public Domain relies heavily on the video visuals, featuring familiar images of YouTube as well as a wall of Vloggers providing vocal backing at one point. At times the show was interspersed with actual interviews and real new reels, which really helped hammer home the fact that this show is a work of fact rather than fiction. A mention must go to the technical geniuses of Christian Czornyj and Matt Powell, along with Director Adam Lenson who put all of this together and ensured it integrated into the show seamlessly and added to it rather than it being a gimmick. I would be very interested to see how this translated when the show is performed in person rather than Live streamed but it worked perfectly for home viewing as you are so used to your TV screen projecting these familiar sights.
The writers of the show are also the 2 performers, with both of them playing multiple roles throughout. Francesca Forristal played a range of characters, from Vlogger Millie to a Senator questioning Zuckerberg shows that not only is she a talented writer but is a versatile actress as well. As soon as she embodies each character you can tell who she is about to portray before she even opens her mouth.
Jordan Paul Clarke plays Vlogger ‘Swaggywan’ and captures this generation Z figure brilliantly. Swaggywan is in constant need of validation from his followers, which while the audience rolls our eyes at their comments it hits home when you take a step back and remind yourself that the show is verbaitum. He also plays the contrasting figure of Zuckerberg and like Forristal he is easily able to differentiate between the variety of characters he plays.
The music in the show is fun and I’m keen to listen to the cast recording as the lyrics were clever and often had me laughing out loud. Sometimes the music needed a bigger hook in the melody to reel me in and to ensure that it stayed in my mind the following day.
Public Domain is a hugely ambitious and technologically complex show, striking a clever balance of technology and live theatre, made all the more remarkable that it is being livestreamed rather than pre-recorded. Whilst at times it is jumbled the fact that it is highly relevant and witty makes up for this. This is the perfect choice of show to live stream at the moment and I can’t wait to eventually see it in person see how it translates.
The show is being Live Streamed on the 15th and 16th of January and an encore stream of Public Domin will be avalaible to view from Tuesday 19 – Sunday 24th January. Just follow this link.
If you like this review you might also like my review of David Bedella’s virtual concert, my book review of 20 Theatres to See Before you Die and a throwback to some of Adam Lenson’s earlier work, Superhero which was also at Southwark Playhouse,