Prima Facie (Griffin Theatre Company)

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Steve Dow Friday, 24 May 2019
Published in ABR Arts

Tessa Ensler is a criminal lawyer in her thirties. Alone on a minimalist stage, in a black suit and a crisp white shirt, she begins by narrating in the present tense a court drama about an unspecified crime. Narcissistically, she considers herself the star rather than the defendant whom she represents. The gallery, she imagines, thinks ‘Wow. She’s good’ as she cross-examines a male witness in this ‘game’ of law. Tessa likens barristers to thoroughbreds, but soon she is reaching for more apt, blood-sport metaphors for her masculine skill set: ‘I fire four questions like bullets … Utter annihilation.’ She boasts she has ‘destroyed’ this witness, his emotional fallout failing to rouse her empathy as she quickly readies for the next case.

Sheridan Harbridge gives a bravura performance in Australian playwright Suzie Miller’s one-woman play, sharply directed by Lee Lewis in its première production. Harbridge’s performance, at first outrageously funny, turns dark as Tessa dismisses dinner-party probing about how she can justify representing people whom she knows are guilty. A good lawyer, she rationalises, ‘just tells the best version of their client’s story’. Her job as defence barrister is simply ‘not to know’ about guilt, and she extends this incuriosity to men accused of rape.

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Published in ABR Arts
Steve Dow

Steve Dow

Steve Dow is a Melbourne-born, Sydney-based arts writer, whose work appears across theatre, screen, visual arts and literature in The Saturday Paper, The Monthly, Spectrum, Guardian Australia, Vault, and Art Guide.

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