Any one hander poses enormous challenges to an actor. Prima Facie is a prime example, and Caroline Craig is astounding in this magnificent portrayal of a successful and confident young barrister, who finds herself on the other side of the court room when she is the victim and survivor of sexual assault by a colleague.
With this transition comes an enormous range of emotions from the comfort of success and winning, through to feelings of violation, degradation, desertion, anguish, frustration and rage. Not only does Craig maintain the stamina to portray this pallette of emotions single-handedly over almost two hours, but she does it wearing the character convincingly, endearingly and passionately, as a consummate story teller, relating directly and intensely with the near-capacity audience, which leaped to its feet in a spontaneous standing ovation at the end.
The play itself, directed by David Mealor, is a masterpiece of engaging writing, exposing the hidden deficiencies in the law built across the centuries from a set of male-dominated assumptions, to the point where it has been described by Harvard professor Judith Herman as a system "designed to protect men from the superior power of the state but not to protect women from the superior power of men”. As such it is an important play which needs to be seen widely, for its capacity to open up conversations and teach about the nature of consent in particular, and the state of the law itself in general.
The staging is ultra simple, focusing on a single chair and dressed by changing and appropriate lighting by Nic Mollison, and musical support by composer Quincy Grant, which emphasise and support the changing emotions and the engaging narrative.
This play is an important piece of social and political commentary, in particular about the law and its place in our society. The court process is described as a game, and the law itself is described as being broken. While its message is important, the play could be criticised for becoming a bit preachy and repetitive at the end. The message is not new – it is clear that women have been saying for a long time that the processes are weighted against them. But it is also true that regardless of gender, the potential always exists for injustices is to be perpetrated.
As this play shows clearly, we have a well established legal system which is not necessarily a justice system. It is a great vehicle for this message, and as such should be seen by everyone!
State Theatre Company SA presents
by Suzie Miller
Director David Mealor
Venue: The Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre | King William Rd Adelaide SA
Dates: 28 April – 13 May 2023