Review: Public – The Musical

Musical raising important points about identity that relies too heavily on stereotypes

theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
33728 large
Photo by Pleasance
Published 06 Aug 2023

The premise of this brand new musical is simple – the door of a gender-neutral, public toilet gets jammed shut, trapping four people inside. They are about as different from each other as can be, and must pass the next hour or so until a worker arrives to free them.

The biggest issue with the show is that the entire premise is fundamentally low stakes. There isn’t much in the scenario itself to generate the conflict that theatre relies on. An hour isn't that long, and one of the characters speaks to building management quickly so there's no uncertainty about how long they'll be there. This means that all the responsibility for dramatic tension lies on the characters: Gen Z artist/activist Zo, non-binary marketing professional Laura, straight finance bro Andrew, and anxious gay man Finley. It helps they're contrasting, but the arguments about gender, class and activism are not the sort of genuine crisis that makes compelling theatre, even though they each raise important points about inclusion, representation and identity. Each character has a clear journey, but the dialogue is often clunky and lacks subtlety because it heavily relies on stereotypes.

The songs, however, are excellent. Short, perky and well-arranged, they provide essential relief from the book and give more nuanced insight into the characters. Additionally, the cast are strong performers with good chemistry. Though there's potential in this show, it needs so major overhauling to make it really great.