Picador, $34.99 pb, 339 pp
Suzie Miller’s play Prima Facie is one of Australia’s most celebrated literary exports of recent years. After an award-winning run of performances in Australia, a production helmed by Killing Eve star Jodie Comer triumphed in London’s West End and on Broadway, garnering deserved accolades for Comer as well as a coveted Olivier Award for Best New Play in 2023.
In the wake of the play’s extraordinary success, Miller has now adapted her ninety-minute play into a 300-plus page novel, a reversal of the more familiar trend of novels being adapted for the stage. While it is not uncommon for a playwright to refashion a script into a work of prose – First Nations writers Leah Purcell and Jane Harrison have, for example, both pursued a similar path for their plays The Drover’s Wife (2016) and The Visitors (2020) respectively – few of these novels have met with the acclaim of their original staged versions.
We might speculate as to the motivation behind these transformations: the desire for a larger audience; the arguably greater kudos associated with being an esteemed novelist; the need to afford themes of cultural and political significance a durability that the ephemerality of theatre doesn’t always allow? At the very least, you would hope that it is because there is more to the story than can be told in an hour and a half of performance; that there are complexities in the subject matter which only the broader and deeper possibilities of the novel give an author the space to explore.