5 Stars ****
Having really enjoyed the streaming of this fascinating new musical back in January, I was very much looking forward to seeing the two multi-talented writer/creative/performers who wrote the show, perform it live in an actual theatre!
Simply put: Jordan Paul Clarke and Francesca Forristal are both outstanding and their new musical Public Domain is tremendous. Fresh, exciting and so relevant to our current world. What a privilege to be present at the West End debut of this stupendous piece watching two mesmerising, multi-talented actor/singers!
Clarke’s superb, soaring vocals, poignant portrayal of Zuckenberg, and hilarious tic-tok agonising are perfectly matched and balanced by Forristal’s vocals, her comedic timing and vulnerability, and her jaw-dropping ability to portray almost any character on the planet.
Directed and produced by Adam Lenson whose specific focus and passion for Musical Theatre is clearly evident, and will be a force to be reckoned with going forward.
Kudos also to Matt Powell for his imaginative and brilliantly integratedvideo: Superb! The West End has seen video before but not like this. Together with Matt Daw and Sam Waddington’s mesmerising lighting, Chris Czornyj’s sound & system design, and Libby Todd’s inventive ‘visual internet’ set design, this is a dream creative team producing invigorating and exciting new Musical Theatre.
Public Domain is presented as ‘a dark, funny, verbatim musical about the internet: Those who own it; those who live in it; and YOU!’ It certainly resonated with myself, a few generations older than my companion who aged 16, who wrote the following exhilarating review…
“Never have I seen anything like it – Public Domain took me massively by surprise – risible, relevant and relatable!
Following a digital journey through the highs and lows of social media, the outstanding graphics used in the set design capture how dependent we have become on technology
The staging in combination with the colours and clips from real life situations really made it feel as though the characters were stuck within the media. Ranging from the stereotypical ‘Instagram influencer’ to Mark Zuckerberg’s wife, Priscilla Chan, we were given an acting master class by Francesca Forristal as she effortlessly transitioned between characters. Her portrayal of all the American senators was exceptional, with fully realised characters for each person – it is almost unbelievable that they were all played by the same person. Her influencer character was agonisingly accurate and perfectly depicted the type of content younger people are exposed to online: hilarious!
Jordan Paul Clarke’s performance as Mark Zuckerberg was the most earnest moment of the entire musical. With a break from the fast paced, witty, comical scenes, the sincerity of his performance made me question my own movements on social media.
Clarke and Forristal both playing OAP’s who had just learned how to use their phones was a huge change of pace and focus. References to Covid and the need for the older generation to communicate during this lonely period of isolation, together with flowery wallpaper, made this scene very heartfelt and relatable, but the comedic timing of this scene also had the audience erupting with laughter.
During Clarke’s song TikTok I was in hysterics! He completely embodied the feelings us teens had as we all started to become addicted to this app! The use of verbatim theatre in combination with musical theatre made every word seem more believable and more powerful especially in this scene. It felt like everything I see through my screen everyday had been brought to life, but I got to know the real characters behind the screen, not just the character I see ON my screen.
The beautiful song Rise & Conquer gave me butterflies as we rarely see the ‘lows’ of the lives of influencers. The vulnerable performance of Forristal really brought this into perspective for me.
I was thoroughly entertained throughout Public Domain! An original, new, fresh idea brought to the stage excellently. Both Clarke and Forristal are extremely talented composers and performers.
What a wonderful way to return to the West End after more than a year away! This show is a must see!”
— Lois Snelling, Age 16
Lois is spot on!
Public Domain is a MUST SEE and deserves a longer run than just 5 performances.
Let’s hope someone picks it up and runs with it!
Huge Thanks must also be given to the generosity and initiative of the amazing Nica Burns for giving these (and others) incredibly talented artists and creatives a West End opportunity as part of her Rising Stars Festival as the West End waits to restart after the devastating and tumultuous sudden closure of our beloved industry 14 months ago. It is though, extremely exciting to see what is emerging from new writers and performers now. Clarke & Forristal are names to watch, both as performers and writers, as is Adam Lenson and his Production Company and all the creatives on Public Domain.
Never has ‘Watch This Space’ seemed so apt!
Reviewed by Catherine Françoise & Lois Snelling
Reviewed Thursday 27th May
1hr 15mins (no interval)
PUBLIC DOMAIN is running until the 30th May 2021
Photos by Jane Hobson