Review: Prima Facie, Harold Pinter Theatre

Her iconic turn as Killing Eve’s Villanelle has shot Jodie Comer into the stratosphere but her West End debut in Prima Facie takes her to an entirely new level.

Tessa is a bright, witty and highly self-confident barrister who defends clients when she’s not in Liverpool with her working-class family. She’s started an office romance with a colleague and things are going well until, after a date, he rapes her. Tessa seeks help from the police and, over two years later, she finally has her day in court — but is she or her attacker on trial?

Photo: Helen Murray

Presented as a monologue, director Justin Martin pushes proceedings along at a gallop and the outstanding Comer does brilliantly to take us with her through the jaunty ups and the emotionally bleak downs of Tessa’s journey, barely pausing for breath even as she changes outfits.

Miriam Buether’s fantastic set design (rainstorm and all) and Rebecca Lucy Taylor’s moving music bring the harrowing story to life. Suzie Miller’s script doesn’t hold back with its powerful imagery and decries a criminal justice system horrendously unfit to take on the current tsunami of sexual assault.*

Prima Facie continues at Harold Pinter Theatre until 18 June 2022. It can also be seen at the cinema on 21 July as part of NT Live.

*In the year to September 2021, there were over 63,000 cases of rape reported, an increase of 13% on the previous year; the prosecution rate fell with only 1.3% resulting in a charge compared to 6% for all crimes. About two in five rape victims who report an assault eventually withdraw the support for a prosecution. Of the prosecutions that do go ahead, it takes on average 1,020 days from when the offence is reported to the case being completed; that is about two-and-a-half years and is 25% longer than in 2020. (Office of National Statistics report, January 2022)

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