From Villanelle to victim, Jodie Comer stuns as a barrister on the brink: PATRICK MARMION

5 mins read

[ad_1]

From Villanelle to victim, Jodie Comer stuns as a barrister on the brink: PATRICK MARMION reviews the Killing Eve star in new stage drama Prima Facie

Prima Facie (Harold Pinter Theatre, London)

Rating:

We’ve grown used to Jodie Comer wearing a cheeky grin and fabulous frocks as she gruesomely butchers people in glamorous locations all over the world as Villanelle.

But the star of the BBC’s Killing Eve couldn’t have looked more different or more shocking in her gale-force West End debut last night.

It’s a one-woman show by Australian-British writer Suzie Miller in which Comer plays an idealistic young barrister who specialises in defending rape suspects.

In a whirlwind opening, she runs through her generic routine of discrediting victims to get clients off the hook. Blink and you miss it as she fits wig and gown, rearranges her chambers’s furniture into a courtroom and rattles off her glib technique.

The play’s title means ‘at first glance’, and quite soon we realise that her character’s hard partying and sexual flirtation with colleagues mirrors that of the victims she routinely picks apart.

Then, one night, she’s out on the razzle with seemingly gentle Julian and the fun turns to embarrassment when she finds herself retching into her loo. He gallantly rescues her from the indignity, but then brutally rapes her in a sickening assault related in pitiless detail. Beware. A little over two years later, her case against Julian comes to court and now she’s the one in the witness box who finds herself in a fog of shock and shame.

Prima Facie is a one-woman show by Australian-British writer Suzie Miller in which Comer plays an idealistic young barrister who specialises in defending rape suspects

Prima Facie is a one-woman show by Australian-British writer Suzie Miller in which Comer plays an idealistic young barrister who specialises in defending rape suspects

The play¿s title means ¿at first glance¿, and quite soon we realise that her character¿s hard partying and sexual flirtation with colleagues mirrors that of the victims she routinely picks apart

The play’s title means ‘at first glance’, and quite soon we realise that her character’s hard partying and sexual flirtation with colleagues mirrors that of the victims she routinely picks apart

In a whirlwind opening, she runs through her generic routine of discrediting victims to get clients off the hook. Blink and you miss it as she fits wig and gown, rearranges her chambers¿s furniture into a courtroom and rattles off her glib technique

In a whirlwind opening, she runs through her generic routine of discrediting victims to get clients off the hook. Blink and you miss it as she fits wig and gown, rearranges her chambers’s furniture into a courtroom and rattles off her glib technique 

The dissociation she experienced during the assault continues, and she discovers that being confused doesn’t make her dishonest. Nor does being raped lend itself to giving clear or logical evidence.

Comer blows us away in a ferocious yet forensic performance that’s related in a blizzard of quickly shifting perspectives. She gets us onside as the high-flying barrister with her native Liverpool accent and anti-Establishment attitude – at one point tossing rubbish into the audience. But her abrupt disintegration into fevered, ashen-faced confusion is seriously distressing.

Although her performance runs a stunning gamut from cocky joy to despair and humiliation, it’s the subject matter that dominates the evening.

In the end, however, Miller’s play is kicking down an open door. It’s a rightly furious polemic designed to ignite anger and outrage.

But questions remain. Is it really more important to give plaintiffs the benefit of a doubt, or to carefully examine their evidence? And what does ‘a male-defined system of truth’ really mean? How we break the deadlock of claim and counter-claim isn’t considered.

That said, this is a stunning and chastening production directed with harrowing purpose by Justin Martin. Miriam Buether’s set of walls filled with white box files of cases starts out looking like a cool facade of legal authority. But it eventually becomes an edifice of shameful indictment as spotlights pick out individual files, one after another.

Advertisement

[ad_2]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Latest from Blog