Harold Pinter Theatre, London – until 18 June 2022
Anyone who has seen Jodie Comer in her multifaceted performance in Killing Eve understands why she is such a well loved and in demand actor. In her one-woman West End debut in Prima Facie, Comer lives up to every expectation and delivers a performance that astounds and stays with you long after the curtain comes down.
What’s so impressive with Comer is not only how she brings interesting and enticing vocal intonations to the script, but how she physically embodies every moment. The high-voltage emotions which run through the piece are literally carried by Comer and she imbues every moment with intensity and expressiveness.
You can just tell how much work has gone into crafting such an intelligent and wonderful portrayal, even from small details such as becoming slightly posher when she’s presenting in court compared to talking to her mother. Comer never flags for a second of the 95 minute show and whether she’s shattering you with heart-breaking moments, or having you laugh out loud with her witty performance, she has you wrapped around her finger in a phenomenal way.
Of course this performance wouldn’t exist without Suzie Miller’s script which is so expertly crafted and focuses on the heartbreaking realities of sexual assault and how difficult it is for women to get closure via successful prosecutions in a court which is based on archaic rules written by men and does very little to support or empathise with victims.
Comer’s character Tessa is a barrister who rose from being the underdog at university to being one of the top defence lawyers for men accused of sexual assault. The play opens with her revelling at being great in court and later on contrasts this by showing flashbacks to her younger self full of doubt as to whether she could succeed when surrounded by all the private school classmates who she cannot relate to.
Her excitement and razor sharp cross examination skills show how she can sew the seed of doubt that the victim may have in fact given consent and that the man was doing what he believed she wanted. The way she talks about it almost gets you on her side until she herself is raped by a colleague and realises how messed up the whole system and court process is.
Natasha Chiver’s lighting design and Justin Martin’s direction really hammer this message home, with folders creating a blank canvas for the action but also becoming part of the story at times. Gradual lighting changes bring further gravitas to the mood changes and the clever closing monologue which breaks the fourth wall is so well done. As a whole this production is a sleek treat which discusses a dark matter but has you feeling uplifting by the talent and skill displayed on stage and behind the scenes.
In a stunningly moving performance, Jodie Comer shows her emotional range and magnetic stage presence which makes her the wondrous performer she is and makes this an unmissable piece of theatre. Beg, borrow, or steal a ticket if you can find one, or book to see Prime Facie in cinemas!