As soon as the curtain goes up Jodie Comer demands attention and barely pauses to take a breathe for 100 minutes.
Trigger Warning – Includes sensitive subject matter including reference to sex, violence, and rape.
Prima Facie is a one woman show, focusing on Tessa. A criminal defence barrister that specialises in defending men accused of sexual assault. The tables turn however when she herself is raped and finds herself on the witness stand, being interrogated by a defence barrister.
Choosing a one woman show for your West End debut is a bold choice. And would be daunting for some, but Comer is exceptional and ensures you are on the end of your seat for the entire performance.
Written by Suzie Miller, Prima Facie begins somewhat light-heartedly. We learn Tessa is from a working class background and felt that she didn’t fit into her Russell Group university. Comer uses her native scouse accent – albeit quite a toned down version. Which works well as she then does different voices for the people she’s supposed to be talking to. Therefore it’s easy to pick apart these conversations and know who is who.
Comer’s ending monologue is one of the best I’ve ever witnessed. It’s raw and honest and makes many solid points. It’s a testament to Miller’s writing abilities but also Comer’s delivery which is impassioned and emotive.
It’s an incredibly important play that highlights the fundamental flaws within the criminal justice system that we are all supposed to trust in. I’m sure the play will be relatable and hit home for many, especially as the stats say that 1 in 3 women are victims of sexual assault. Miller makes many a valid point within the play regarding why the survivor is made to recount every detail from their worst experience yet the accused rarely takes the stand themselves. The process is long and drawn out for the survivor and more often than not leads to a not guilty verdict.
Most of the time the survivor is blamed for the assault. As we saw in 2018, when a defence lawyer held up the victim’s underwear to the court and said to the jury – “You have to look at the way she was dressed. She was wearing a thong with a lace front.” The worst thing is the defence lawyer was a women also. Prima Facie highlights this huge flaw within the justice sytem. With Tessa asking the court “why am I the one on trial?”.
Comer gives the best performance I’ve seen this year so far, grabbing you and drawing you in and refusing to let you go until the curtain falls down.
I only noticed as I was stood applauding Comer with tears falling down my cheeks just the effect Prima Facie had upon me and how much it hits home.
Yes it’s in its last week in the West End – but if you have a chance to visit your local cinema next month, the show will be one the big screen. A great decision by the producers, this makes the show accessible to a wider population and means more people will see this incredibly important play.
I’m sure we’ll see Comer at the Oliviers and subsequently the Tonys once this play transfers to Broadway – which it’s set to do next year.
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