Public Domain at The Vaudeville Theatre

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When the automated voice played with the usual ‘turn off your phones’ speech, you could feel the
excitement from many, including myself, for whom this was the first time back in the theatre
post-lockdown. But that was little compared to when the same voice concluded their speech with
‘Oh…and welcome back to the West End’. The explosion from the crowd was nothing short of
goosebump inducing. The atmosphere was pumping, and we were all ready to be entertained by the
talented pair, Francesca Forristal and Jordan Paul Clarke in Public Domain. To write and star in a two person show is no
mean feat – and these two carried it off very well. Forristal is pitch perfect with a voice that effortlessly
spans not only octaves, but an impressive range of tones and accents to play dozens of characters – each
distinguishable from another, even if you were watching with your eyes shut.

The set was simple but perfectly executed, and the lighting made the show – with small details like
flipping one video to show that one character was watching it from behind. It was incredibly well
thought out and visually stunning. I’m sure the technical team couldn’t blink for fear of missing perfectly
timed cues that were integral to the songs, and the overall comedic timing of the show.

I would definitely watch a show written and performed by this talented duo again – their writing and composition was a real triumph. Forristal and Clarke write superb lyrics, and they have a wonderful sense of musicality, even when remixing videos, which worked as a clever and very amusing device to
highlight the reality in the show.

But unfortunately, for me Public Domain just missed the mark. I feel I am pretty much the target audience for
this show – young, tech savvy, constantly on social media – I was expecting to come out of this with some
kind of revelation, expecting to see social media in a new light, embrace the change, and burn my phone
in a bin outside along with the rest of the audience post-show. But instead I felt the show didn’t have
much of a message. That isn’t to say it wasn’t incredibly thought provoking at times – in fact, all of the
Mark Zuckerberg scenes (lifted verbatim from real life) were so gripping I realised I wasn’t taking a sip of
the drink I had held to my mouth. His trial scene was expertly played out, with time sensitive questioning
and fabulous delivery from both Forristal and Clarke. I had my eyes opened to a content moderator issue
I was completely unaware of through incredibly impactful writing and delivery.

The show did comedy very well when it was there. The message was delivered beautifully, when the
show had a message. The two main characters, when eventually given some narrative, were very
compelling. But overall as a show, I felt it could’ve gone further with any one of those three key
storytelling devices. More plot, more of a message, or more comedy – whereas this only had a smattering
of all three and didn’t focus on any.

This shouldn’t in any way take away from how powerful some of the songs were. Forristal and Clarke
dealt both with a lot of issues that needed to be brought to light, and the wholesome side of how
technology has enriched our lives.

If Public Domain had a little more direction – something more to say – and a clearer goal – you’d be onto a
definite winner.

Review by Mims Melville

Public Domain is on at the Vaudeville Theatre until 30th May. You can find out more and book tickets here.

If you liked this review you might also like my review for Cruise, Here Come The Boys and Abba Mania.

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