Review: Prima Facie @ State Theatre Centre Of WA

'Prima Facie' – Image © Daniel J Grant
Joshua (he/him) is from Boorloo, Western Australia. Outside writing for scenestr and FROOTY, he is an active member of the arts and cultural industries, specialising in Film and Theatre management.

'Prima Facie' is a 2023 Olivier Award-winner for Best New Play, and begins its debut in Perth (Boorloo) after taking the West End and Broadway by storm.

Directed by Kate Champion, and starring Sophia Forrest in the lead role of this one-person performance, 'Prima Facie' follows Tessa – a brilliant defence barrister – at the height of her career, chasing the addiction of winning cases. From working-class origins to being the leading barrister, the production probes the meteoric rise of a strong-willed individual, in a male-dominated world – and the thickening of the skin just to survive.

When a shocking turn of events has Tessa viewing the world of law and justice on the other side of the looking glass, 'Prima Facie' adopts strong sentiment and antecedence to 'Promising Young Woman' by Emerald Fennell. The stark set design of fifteen pillars – the foundation of law – stand like obelisks behind Forrest, who delivers a strong performance, encompassing a myriad of characters. The dialogue is strong and delivered in a way that plays out like a court transcript. Forrest, paired with Champion’s direction, is able to project a moving and sustainable presence to a large stage – which be to the detriment of the production, if not for the movement of the set, and the choreography of the performance.

PrimaFacie DanielJGrant2
Image © Daniel J Grant

'Prima Facie' utilises mixed media and audio visuals in a way that keeps audience attention throughout. The production expertly weaves the perceived arrogance of lawyers into the inner conflict of law’s adjudicators – pitting the moral question of whether it is right or wrong to defend. There are moments where the ingenuity of the scriptwriting falls into a rhythm similar to an audiobook, which fights against the attention of the performance, but the overall length of the performance suits the delivery in the end.

In the same vein as the antecedents, 'Prima Facie' doesn’t end the way we want, but with powerful closing arguments, the audience rests. As soon as the lights go dark, the theatre erupts in applause and a standing ovation.

'Prima Facie' is a must-see performance this winter, for those working in the profession, and for those who enjoy a legal drama. 'Prima Facie' is an interesting and interlocked performance which delves into the psyche of a lawyer, and shines a light on laws created by men, for the benefit of men.

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