It’s a depressingly acquainted story: a girl who has been raped summons each ounce of her braveness and dedication to take her case to courtroom, solely to be traumatised once more by a authorized system that’s cruelly and overwhelmingly stacked in opposition to her.
This 2019 monodrama by Australian-born playwright Suzie Miller examines that shamefully frequent situation from a double perspective – the sufferer, Tessa, is a profitable barrister who specialises in defending sexual assault instances.
Past that, Miller – herself a former lawyer – doesn’t provide a lot contemporary perspective, regardless of some harrowingly vivid element; there’s not one of the knotty complexity of Consent, Nina Raine’s significantly better 2017 play on the identical topic.
However in Justin Martin’s manufacturing, Jodie Comer provides a terrifically robust, supple efficiency, lending the relatable everywoman Tessa dimension and authenticity, steely outrage and fury.
In her workplace in chambers, Comer’s Tessa radiates confidence as she takes us by means of a profession that began at Cambridge Regulation College, the place her working-class upbringing in Liverpool already set her other than her well-heeled, privately educated friends.
She revels within the adrenaline rush of the courtroom, revealing how she makes use of her gender to benefit, encouraging witnesses to underestimate her earlier than touchdown a killer blow. She loves the mental rigour of her job, the interrogation of each doubt – “never assume you’re telling yourself the truth” is her skilled mantra.
However when a colleague date rapes her, every part she’s learnt all of a sudden appears grotesquely improper. Crouched within the bathe, she imagines how she’d cross-examine herself; when her case involves trial, an agonising 782 days later, she is aware of all too nicely what her chances are high.
Miriam Buether’s design – with its hefty mahogany furnishings and towering stacks of case information – makes a stable, standard setting. However Martin’s manufacturing is caught barely awkwardly between realism and expressionistic flourish.
At its finest, it suggests the best way by which private disaster can appear to make the entire world tilt on its axis and make the acquainted look unusual: a chair turns into a witness field, torrential rain pours from the ceiling. At its worst – Comer leaping onto the desk in an excitable recollection of previous glories – it’s just a little clumsy.
Rigidity and a rising dread and anger are ramped up by music by Rebecca Lucy Taylor, aka Self Esteem, her snagging, staticky beats, vibrating harmonies and defiant lyrics infusing Miller’s considerably pedestrian writing with a pulsing urgency.
And Comer is all the time compelling, as she fights to cling on to her perception in justice, the life she’s constructed and her sense of self. If the play, for all its conviction, sheds little new gentle on an egregious – and worsening – concern, she blazes.
To 18 June, primafacieplay.com