Public Domain ★★★★ Southwark Playhouse (online) | January 19-24, 2021


The first song “And just like that, we felt a little less alone” introduces the complex cultural shift that Public Domain examines. Francesca Forristal and Jordan Paul Clarke exude energy and charm as they sing their way from social media platform to social media platform while capturing the naivety of the users and cynicism of the platforms’ creators. Contemporary references in Forristal and Clarke’s script and the well-paced direction by Adam Lenson ensure that Public Domain is fresh and pertinent. The clever lighting by Matt Daw and video overlay by Matt Powell create an illusion that is both hypnotic and disorienting, the perfect visual motif for the complex commentary of the play. In an age where “Friends of our friends” and the projection of image is more important than essence, Public Domain presents the clichés that social media is built upon. Questions like “Why is the camera not on me?” are juxtaposed to the social media creators' remarks “We just focussed on building something good” and “The future is going to be better than today.” The dark irony of these remarks is put into the context of targeted advertising that social media generates. “Are you sad, are you lonely, are you ugly?” become mantras to attract those who want to be able to say “It’s fun talking to you guys. You guys are my friends.” This thoughtful and topical musical asks us to look at the contradictions of contemporary media while always providing great entertainment. Forristal and Clarke have taken on a big issue and they do a first-rate job of creating relevant and relatable theatre. The collage of faces at the end of Public Domain suggests the obvious: we have indeed entered a brave new world, one where more than one big brother is watching us.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by A.V.
Photo by The Other Richard.

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