Prima Facie review: ‘Awards will follow’
Jodie Comer's ‘ferocious yet forensic performance’ blows the audience away in Suzie Miller’s play
“West End debuts don’t come much more astonishing than this,” said Dominic Cavendish in The Daily Telegraph. Anyone who has seen Jodie Comer’s “chameleonic” performance as the assassin Villanelle in TVs Killing Eve will understand why she’s in such demand on screen.
Now, her solo turn in Prima Facie, as a hotshot criminal barrister who unravels after she is raped by a colleague, “propels her into the front rank of stage stars”. Comer’s “terrific facial expressiveness” and vocal versatility were well-known; “the revelation” here is her physicality. She “embodies the swaggering work hard/play hard culture of legal high-flyers”, and populates the stage with multiple characters, including her bruiser brother, a condescended-to policeman, and Jules, the apparently “sheepish” colleague.
Comer’s “ferocious yet forensic performance” blows the audience away, agreed Patrick Marmion in the Daily Mail. In a story that’s told in a “blizzard of quickly shifting perspectives”, she brings an immediate appeal to the character of the ambitious young lawyer Tessa. Her irreverence is infectious, and her “abrupt disintegration into ashen-faced confusion is seriously distressing”.
Comer absolutely owns the stage, said Andrzej Lukowski in Time Out; but the play itself is “pretty clunky”. The Australian playwright, Suzie Miller, has worked as a barrister – and what she has produced is an “impassioned” indictment of the legal system, but a slightly “ponderous” drama. For instance, Tessa is known for her skill in defending men accused of sexual assault, and has enjoyed demolishing their accusers at the witness stand; yet in a “baffling” omission, she never reflects upon this when she herself becomes a victim of sexual assault.
The piece is “unabashedly” driven by an agenda that Comer’s character is there to serve, agreed Dominic Maxwell in The Times. But it does make “its point in style”. And as for Comer, “nothing can quite prepare you” for her range, energy, resilience, emotional clarity and sheer presence. “Awards will follow.”
Harold Pinter Theatre, London SW1. Until 18 June.