Starring Jodie Comer
Written by Suzie Miller
Directed by Justin Martin


I am always nervous about going to see a play that is related to the law. Invariably, I would find it unwatchable, with this or that aspect usually being wrong. Like when I used to watch The Bill on TV while studying at law school. Had they even read PACE?

So, the prospect of spending 90 minutes watching Jodie Comer (of, in particular, Killing Eve fame) portraying an actual barrister filled me with trepidation. I was wrong. Wow, was I wrong!

Comer plays Tessa, a successful criminal defence barrister. A girl made good from the working-class suburbs of Liverpool. She spends her days in court, defending the indefensible and largely those accused of sexual abuse (a point with which she grapples early on in her performance). Those she represents are the worst of the worst. She plays the game and wins. She does it with charisma, pathos and vigour.

Drawing on the working tools and fundamentals of this profession consistently and thoroughly, Comer never causes those who know the role well to lose interest. Everyone is entitled to representation; and as a barrister you are obliged to do your best for them. But what happens if, or when, you are yourself a victim of sexual abuse. One in three women are subjected to physical or sexual violence once in their lifetime. So, what happens when it is the barrister who is the victim of a sexual assault? An assault from another barrister. A barrister in your chambers. A barrister who is also an expert in criminal law. This is the situation which befalls Tessa. Raped, by her ‘boyfriend’, when she said no. Raped, by another barrister.

Who does the court – your workplace – believe? Comer is fantastic in this one-woman show. She is wholly believable as an ambitious lawyer and, sadly, too as a rape victim.

Comer executes the fine line between being a barrister and being human brilliantly, the two often mistaken for the same thing. She reminds us that, sadly, we may also as legal professionals find ourselves at the mercy of the court in one way or another. She grapples with the difficulties that we face as humans in the profession, and also how clients may feel when entrusting us as their advocates and our justice system with their lives, with beautiful balance.

It is wonderfully written by Suzie Miller, who takes us on a journey of beguile and ultimately destruction. We sit mesmerised as an audience by the set, the performance and the oratory. Comer’s costume and set changes are seamless.

She holds the audience in absolute captivation by way of her performance. One actor: 90 minutes. Comer is charming, vulnerable and ultimately us. By that I mean anyone who has faced bullying, abuse and or despair. She holds us in her hands, and dictates our emotions, our anger and for many in the audience, our tears.

The criminal justice system is itself held to trial; and as perhaps is unsurprising to any of us with even a mere understanding, found to be failing. One in three. The system is failing; but this production is not. Absolutely five stars! 

Prima Facie is at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London until 18 June and in cinemas via NT Live on 21 July.
© Helen Murray