by Suzie Miller
Tessa Ensler is a tough defence lawyer. In her early thirties she has managed what very few people believed she could: she has made her way from an underprivileged background to an elite university and on to a top legal firm. She specializes in defending cases of sexual assault. Is her rate of acquittals so high because she is a woman, as is rumoured – or is it because she is so good at spotting holes and contradictions in the statements of the female victims? Either way, Tessa is proud that she does not torment those before her on the witness stand like some of her colleagues, but she also believes in the legal system that gives the accused the benefit of the doubt. However, this faith is shaken when she is herself raped. Her attacker is no stranger: he is her colleague Julian, with whom she had shared an office affair and perhaps even the beginnings of a deeper relationship. When she presses charges, it is clear to her that appearances and the prima facie evidence are not on her side – in addition to their initial attraction, several bottles of wine were also involved – however, personal justice is not her only concern, but also a reckoning with a legal system created by men which she has spent her life believing in.
Like Ferdinand von Schirach, the Australian author Suzie Miller has also worked as a defence lawyer – in her case, in the field of human rights – and now writes for theatre, film and television. «Prima Facie» won the leading Australian prizes for new plays in 2020 as well as the Olivier Award, the highest honour in the British theatre. It was a sensational success in London’s West End in 2022 and has been running in New York on Broadway since spring 2023. This intense solo drama, in which Tessa tells her life story one element at a time, playing all the characters who appear herself, is staged by resident director Nora Schlocker, who in recent seasons has brought a lucid and sensitive approach to both contemporary writing and classical dramas.