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First impressions on Prima Facie

Updated: Feb 13, 2023

Yes I’m playing with words, Prima Facie means “on first impressions”, specifically in legal terms it refers to what appears to be the truth.

I went with a friend to watch the filming of the show which is doing its “encore” in cinemas after it was filmed in the Harold Pinter theatre in London. I have to say that as much as it was a very good way of being able to watch it, I immediately wished I was down in London, as I think the presence of Jodie Comer in a closer and more intimate way must be an amazing experience.

But life happens, and I’m in Glasgow now, no longer living in London so I’m going to

a fancy cinema instead, my favourite so far in this city, but where the cool feature of having sofas and being able to order drinks and food on a Friday night completely breaks the atmospheric preliminaries of the play we are about to see. So much so that the advert of the project “schools consent” parallel to the play, is almost not heard, drowned by audience chatter, as the lights in the room haven’t gone out yet.

Emily Maitlis then presents a short interview with Suzie Miller, writer of the play, Jodie Comer actress, Kate Parker founder of school consent, and DSI Claire Kellan from the Metropolitan Police….They all chat as women about the play and on the topic of women being abused. My mind is making the maths, why are they talking about “they”, if it is 1 in 3 women one of them must have been affected. Don’t get me wrong, it is not that I’m expecting all women to open up and wave the survivor experience at every opportunity given.

But there is something detached in the way we talk about our suffering, particularly in our activism, my mind wonders now…Do we need to? Do we need to detach in order to fight for ourselves?

The interview is short and sweet? while I wish I had heard more from the protagonist Jodie Comer about her way of preparing for the role or even her reason for accepting it. But I have now discovered the full version here.

Finally the play starts, and what follows is a non stop deliverance of a solo piece that keeps me asking: "How on Earth can she breath? Is she breathing?". The control of Comer over her voice and body is simply out of this world.

I have never seeing anything like it.

I’m thinking of the many times actors get recognition for their amazing transformations in movies, De Niro in Raging Bull and Christian Bale on The Machinist come to mind, but Comer seems to be mutating purely by accent, voice, and physical demeanours in a pretty basic nude stage that she also changes herself.

She grabs the audience from minute one and pins us to our seats till the very end.

She is simply astounding, an incredible actress, as I’ve thought when I first saw her in Killing Eve, too good in fact, for a survivor of rape like me, seating there naively thinking that I will be ok, that it is now over 20 years since it happened to me, that I understand the warning that tells us at the beginning of the play that this is about rape. But I’m not ok. I cover my ears and close my eyes, because her interpretation is too good, the writing is too good, the description too realistic, the references to not being able to breath and the mouth covered unfortunately too triggering for me, I’m crying and trying to get away from the flashbacks. The scene concludes, my friend holds my hand, “I’m ok” I mutter.

I’m not ok, the protagonist Tessa, is not ok, I am now almost grateful not to be in that theatre, the experience is already strong enough, as if I have synced with her, Tessa, in a parallel universe.

I recognise perfectly well the transformation from the girl who was going places to the girl who got lost, side tracked surviving. I recognise her post raped body language too well, Comer now becomes a mirror, in which I recognise myself and who knows how many others, over apologetic, frightened, shaken, hyper vigilant women.

How many others? Comer replies with a reality that we know and say time and time and again, as if no one really listens. I call it the silent scandal, one in three, look to your left look to your right, here I am the statistic, I feel her eyes staring at me, and how many more in this cinema? I ask in my head. How many in that theatre?

The play finishes as a rollercoaster ride finishes, I sense the shock in the cinema, the discomfort. I want to do a standing ovation but it is not a theatre, it feels weird, nobody follows me, I don’t care, she deserves it I clap till I can. That woman deserves all the awards and I’m grateful for the play and anything that might come from it, but reality hits me immediately when in a yet again, predominantly female audience a guy behind me laughs and comments some nonsense about it, for him it is just another play.

The privilege of detachment, I call it, to him is just a play. I imagine how that feels. To some of us that is our life, still our life…Something very weird to watch your trauma as entertainment, something that I am never too sure about. And I wonder how many times we have to get naked in articles, plays and books as survivors in order to get heard. I get angry: Why are we still having to get naked down to our very souls to be heard.

My friend thinks it is positive and this will hopefully change things. But I am angry and fed up. I normally feel this way after feeling triggered, and suddenly I remember the last time I felt like this was in that same cinema watching The Last Duel also with another amazing performance from Jodie Comer, and I can’t help to think, isn’t she fed up too? Is she like me feeling that no matter how fed up we are we have no other option but to keep fighting and keep speaking about it?

We leave the screen and next to the toilets all we see is the old posters from Sean Connery, as Bond, well it is Scotland and this is a cinema, but I can’t help to explain to my friend how he was happy to promote slapping women in an interview .

I want to burn the posters, I explain to my friend that it is also a common feeling after an episode of revisiting the trauma. I jokingly say to her I want to go out and burn everything, is a normal reaction. Yes, that is a normal reaction, that thought lingers.

We walk back trying to get home and reflecting on what we have seen and I find myself been all jumpy with the shouting of drunk men passing us on Buchanan Street.

I apologise to my friend, as I always do. I have been apologising like Tessa in the play, ever since I got raped, I apologise for having to carry around the memory of what others did to me, for having to live with what for others was just another shag, for having to explain what it means to be drugged and raped, apologising for not having enough recollection of the details, for not being paying attention, for mixing with the wrong crowd, wearing the wrong thing, not keeping an eye on my drink, not screaming enough, not being sure enough…Permanently apologising to a society that it is still judging us for being raped so that men can get away with being rapists. Because while we repeat “1 in 3” we haven’t even started wondering how many of our friends have raped someone?

Society only makes women the protagonist when men need to be hidden, and the invisible men in the play are the real protagonists in life. And as much as this play is brilliant and couldn’t be better acted.

I already know the story, the women in the audience know the story.

I want the world to know about your everyday friend who raped, I want to know about how they carry on with their lives, how can you be a criminal groomed, protected and integrated in society.

But I guess I also know that story, I’m a woman, now a mother, in patriarchy and that is not a play.

My friend and I took a cab home, I shared my location with my husband, and I kissed my friend goodbye while I said: “let me know when you get home”.

I didn’t go to sleep until she texted. And that is our truth. That is our life.

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