Jodie Comer, who has won accolades and awards for her role as the obsessive killer Villanelle in Killing Eve, will make her West End stage debut playing a criminal barrister specializing in defending rapists—who then sexualize herself. harass.
In Prima Facie, Comer will play a ‘well-mannered’ lawyer who has used his skills not only to defend men, but also to defame his victims.
But then she finds herself up against the same system she has used to her advantage in the past, where victims of assault are often mistrusted.
‘Yes, there was sex, but was it consensual? . . Or not? It’s his word against him,’ explained the Australian-born lawyer to playwright Suzie Miller, whose thriller will have its first performance on April 15 next year at the Harold Pinter Theater.
Jodie Comer (pictured) will make her West End stage debut in Prima Facie, playing a criminal barrister specializing in defending rapists – who then sexually assaults herself
During her legal career, Miller, who has lived in the UK and Australia, said she would take at least six statements a week from young women who were victims of sexual assault.
‘I don’t know of any sexual assault statements I’ve ever had where I could ever be sure they were lying,’ Miller told me from his home in Sydney.
She decided to write a play that looked at how the laws – mainly drawn and written by ‘a very elite group of men’ – turned their eyes on women in assault cases.
‘Remember, not long ago it was illegal to rape your wife,’ he reminded me.
But Miller said prima facie isn’t just a story about women. It is for men too. And he hopes it makes everyone stop and think. ‘Let’s redefine what consent is. Let’s make sure that if you are a male and not socially equipped to read the signs, learn! Let’s tell the boys that no means no.’
There has been concern for years about how the police and courts treat women involved in sexual assault cases. The play pulls no punches, and shows the trauma many women and their families have to endure.
Miller told me that when he contacted Comer, 28, they talked for over an hour discussing the role of Tessa Ensler—a woman from a working-class background who tackled issues of class and maltreatment. Despite excelling in law school.
After a conversation with the actress, a proud Liverpudlian, Miller decides to change the setting of the play from Australia to the UK and make Tessa ‘a scoser’.
She is collaborating on the project with director Justin Martin, a close associate of Stephen Daldry. (They worked together in several other Billy Elliot and Daldry productions, including The Inheritance, which won a Tony Award in New York last weekend.)
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Martin said that he and producer James Bierman were sent to Australia before the play was staged, where it won awards and attracted audiences who often held back at the end, arguing about its content.
The director said that he was still a bit ‘shocked’ at how quickly Comer read the work. He told me, ‘Tessa does things in the play that Jodie is really attached to.
And he was clearly excited about the prospect of working with the actress. ‘He is someone who is fearless; Someone who feels they are outside the normative and centrist nature of London. He has kept that part of him alive which is Liverpool. She can hum, and she moves incredibly.’
Comer last appeared on stage 11 years ago, in the play The Price of Everything by Noleen Kershaw, at the Stephen Joseph Theater in Scarborough.
Birman told me that Zabrzad ‘Buggy’ Salam, the comer dialect coach he uses on Killing Eve, was already helping prepare him for the nine-week season at Harold Pinter. Tessa can speak with a Liverpool accent in the scenes where she returns home; But in London and in the courtroom…