REVIEW: Public Domain, Southwark Playhouse (Online)

This brand new musical examines the positives and negatives of social media.

(c) The Other Richard.

Love it or loathe it, social media has certainly helped us all connect with each other over the years – but most particularly given the events of the last twelve months in particular.

Having started the show exactly a year ago before the pandemic hit, Francesca Forristal and Jordan Paul Clarke’s musical has continued to develop and evolve right up until this live-streamed production. Taking every song lyric and every line from YouTube videos, real tweets, or Instagram posts, Public Domain gets you thinking about how we all use social media and how dependent we have become on it.

Much of the focus for the show is on Facebook and Youtube – in particular how these particular forms while helping us to connect with other people, can also have detrimental effect when it comes to spreading “fake news”. It is not a judgemental piece, rather a clearsighted approach to the pros and cons of social media.

Written and performed by Francesca Forristal and Jordan Paul Clarke, Public Domain is a fast paced show that covers many different aspects of social media well. However, it is also a complex subject with different layers that can’t quite be fully covered in depth in the space of just over an hour and could use more refinement and focus.

But given the fact that the show was unable to have any workshops, it is still a sharp and clever show by focusing on this subject – particularly in the way in which the language is all formed of actually tweets, lines from Youtube videos and Instagram posts really highlights just how social media can have impact in all aspects of our life.

Directed by Adam Lenson, the production really effectively uses technology to really submerge us in the world of social media, blending elements of Youtube, news reports and interviews to enhance to just how much of life evolves around the power and control of social media. Thanks to Matt Powell’s video design and Libby Todd’s set design, the whole show feels like a 1980’s rave, enhanced by the stylishness of the music.

There is a great energy about Public Domain that keeps the show moving along nicely, while the performances of both Forristal and Clarke really capture accurately a selection of the characters you are likely to come across on the internet.

However, it has to be said that on occasion the show does become slightly repetitive – particularly when it comes to the lyrics of the songs. It is a shame – but there is still really potential in the liveliness of the music and the cleverness in the way in which the songs have been constructed.

While elements of the show need to be refined, this is still a very clever and thought-provoking show that makes you re-evaluate your own attitude and approach to social media.

By Emma Clarendon

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Public Domain is being streamed tonight at 7.45pm. An encore stream of ‘Public Domain’ will be available to view from Tuesday 19th until Sunday 24th January: UPDATE: it is now streaming until the 16th May: 

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