The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the biggest arts festival in the world, with nearly 3,500 shows. This year, Playbill is in Edinburgh for the entire month in August for the festival and we’re taking you with us. Follow along as we cover every single aspect of the Fringe, aka our real-life Brigadoon!
As part of our Edinburgh Fringe coverage, Playbill is seeing a whole lotta shows—and we're sharing which ones you absolutely must see if you're only at the Fringe for a short amount of time. Consider these Playbill Picks a friendly, opinionated guide as you try to choose a show at the festival.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Before coming to Edinburgh Fringe, I had one goal: to see that one show. The show that I would go back to New York City and brag about for months if not years. The show that I could say, “Well, you know, I saw it in Edinburgh before it went to [insert major commercial venue].” And everyone, this was that show for me.
Public: The Musical has a very simple plot, four people get trapped inside a gender-neutral public restroom and have to wait for maintenance to rescue them. Forced to make small talk with one another, these strangers find commonality in most unlikely of people. With only an hour, we’re quick to learn about non-binary Laura (played by Alicia Corrales), who fears that they just spotted their girlfriend cheating…again. Andrew (Andrew Patrick-Walker), who radiates toxic masculinity in his cycling unitard, doesn’t understand what the big deal is with pronouns. Then there is Zo (Annabel Marlow), who claims to be an ally and artist—but even though it's well-meaning, her activism may be more performative than she realizes. And finally, Finlay (Hugo Rolland), a gay man whose crippling anxiety is only exacerbated by his desperation to make it out and to his universal credit (similar to a welfare office in America) meeting on time.
The musical does move quickly within the 60-minute run time. The characters discuss a gamut of social issues (for example, Laura attempts to explain to Andrew their own gender identity journey) while stuck. The book—written by Kyla Stroud, their twin Natalie Stroud, and Hannah Sands—is filled to the brim with hilarious one-liners but also beautiful and heartfelt insight into each character’s personal struggles. It’s easy to fall in love with a musical that has such earnest and relatable characters.
But what completely sold me with Public is its fantastic score. So many new pop musicals attempt to create songs that not only sound current and modern, but also drive the story forward. Public not only accomplishes this but soars.
Created by queer-led theatre collective Stroud & Notes, the musical features pop, rock, and R&B songs by Kyla Stroud with co-writes by Natalie Stroud and Olivia Zacharia. From the instant the first number’s (“Minute by Minute”) beat drops, I was hooked. The musical is filled to the brim with clever lyrics, cool and modern melodies, and a cast that sings with laser-like precision when often performing in four-part harmonies. And whether as a cast or during a solo, each performer (who by the way, sings some of the cleanest riffs I’ve ever heard) had the audience cheering with “Yaaaas”s and waving their snapping fingers in the air.
One song, in particular, that I still can’t get out of my head is “Otherside.” The duet number features Patrick-Walker and Marlow (who played Katherine Howard in the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe production of Six: The Musical and is the sister of Six composer Toby Marlow) in what, I believe, people will soon start comparing to Rent’s “Take Me or Leave Me.” All four singers’ vocals are truly gobsmacking, but after this number, I had to pick my jaw off the floor. Marlow’s voice is otherworldly, and Patrick-Walker may be one of the most talented tenors I’ve ever heard on stage before.
To say that I am excited to see the future for this musical is an understatement. Kyla Stroud and the Stroud & Notes team have really created something unique and special and have assembled a cast that is creating musical theatre magic every day at Pleasance’s Courtyard. The only question I had leaving the show was, “How soon can I get this cast recording?”
Public - The Musical performs in Pleasance Two @ Pleasance Courtyard through August 27. For tickets, click here.