- Colin Fraser
NT LIVE: PRIMA FACIE
FOUR STARS When a young barrister is sexually abused, she finds herself on the other side of the courtroom.
Theatre Drama UK #PRIMAFACIE
Starring Jodie Comer
At the core of this thrilling production from London’s National Theatre is the caffeine-fuelled performance by Jodie Comer (KILLING EVE). In fact, it’s the only performance, PRIMA FACIE being a one-woman play about a rape case that’s delivered at the speed of light. Written by Suzie Miller and directed by Justin Martin, this NT LIVE production is quite astonishing.
Tessa (Comer) is a young barrister of distinction, formerly of Liverpool now working London’s bar. She adores the game of practising law in which the players define ‘legal truth’ as something quite distinct from any other form of truth. Particularly, well, the truth. As well as being an exhilarating sport, it frees them from having a conscience when defending the indefensible. Without the inconvenience of truth, a law court becomes an arena in which there are winners and those who come second. Tessa never comes second.
Then a series of circumstances lead to a drunken date with a colleague and Tessa is sexually abused. Suddenly she’s on the other side of the courtroom, no longer one of the players but one of the toys they play with. Painfully and professionally aware of how she has lost all power, how her version of events will be construed and how she will become a victim of ‘legal truth’, Tessa is about to come second for the first time in her life. There’s nothing she can do about it.
PRIMA FACIE is a story that hurtles by within the constraints of one tantalisingly minimal set, with one performer relating the entirety of events past and present. As Tessa, Comer has a voice for every occasion; her working-class self, her London self, her mother, colleagues, the rapist, police and those in the law court. It’s delivered with astonishing (and, to be honest, exhausting) speed as if three hours of dialogue have been compressed into a 90 minute play. Which it more or less has been. Throughout, Comer doesn’t miss a beat, a performance that recalls the STC’s DORIAN GRAY in terms of ‘how does she do that?’. She is astonishing.
Theatre fans will adore the opportunity to see the West End at its finest and you won’t see it’s like anywhere else. But be warned. Miller and Martin have packed a world of emotion into this story. There’s a lot to take in and Comer won’t wait for you.