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  • Castor Chan

Theatre Diaries: Prima Facie

Content warning: strong themes of sexual assault

Jodie Comer sitting on a desk on stage for Prima Facie
Image credit: Twitter @RegalPH

As my first culture style piece, I thought I’d do a little review of a show that I watched last month! This is going to be a continuous series of the arts productions I’ve watched, whether play or musical or film. Personally, I’ve always enjoyed musicals but I’m definitely a little less familiar with plays. So what else could be better than one from the National Theatre?

When I first saw an ad for Prima Facie, I wasn’t too sure if it would be my thing. But I’m glad I saw it, and definitely understood why it’s been so highly praised. While I watched a screening at Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle, Jodie Comer absolutely shines as barrister Tessa and you can feel all of her emotions in her voice as if you were at the Harold Pinter Theatre. For it being Comer’s West End debut, I can’t wait to see if she’ll go further with theatre. She’s captivating, dynamic, and so so convincing in both her initial confidence and then the pain in her ordeal. Although Prima Facie is a one woman show, the performance never seemed lacking of another presence as Comer keeps a tight rein on the audience’s attention throughout the 100 minute play.

She’s captivating, dynamic, and so so convincing

Prima Facie was written by playwright Suzie Miller, and brings to life the story of an accomplished, defiant barrister who suddenly finds herself a witness and victim of sexual assault. (For those wanting to watch it, be warned that although not graphically shown, it can be a sensitive trigger) We watch Tessa’s previously ruthless attitude and clinical ideology towards law slowly fail her through Comer’s brilliant portrayal, and while undoubtedly heartwrenching, the play is a damning and stark display of the injustices that still exist within the justice system.

I won’t go into many spoilers for those who haven’t seen it, but if I had to describe the play with one word, it is sobering. The end portion of Miller’s script starts feeling a little bit like a lecture, with all the ‘dialogue’ (aka Comer’s response and commentary) funnelling down to Tessa’s solo speech. Despite that, Comer is riveting to the end, and the standing ovations she receives in the Harold Pinter is thoroughly deserved. Miller also clearly delivers the urgency of changing our current legal system, and how utterly devastating it is to those who need it most.

Miller clearly delivers the urgency of changing our current legal system, and how utterly devastating it is to those who need it most.

Beyond Millier’s script, the production is incredible. From the downpour of water during Tessa’s ordeal, the brilliantly planned set to enhance Comer’s movements and scenario at any given moment - she moves each piece of furniture around to set scenes with no breaks - to the atmospheric music created by Self Esteem. It was a truly immersive experience, and paired with it’s relevancy and impact, Prima Facie should definitely go on your to-watch list.

Prima Facie is set to go on Broadway in the Spring of 2023.

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