Prima Facie (NHB Modern Plays)
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Prima Facie (NHB Modern Plays)

Suzie Miller

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eBook - ePub

Prima Facie (NHB Modern Plays)

Suzie Miller

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About This Book

Tessa is a young, brilliant barrister. She has worked her way up from working-class origins to the top of her game: defending, cross-examining and winning.

But an unexpected event forces her to confront the patriarchal power of the law, where the burden of proof and morality diverge.

Prima Facie by Suzie Miller is an award-winning play for a solo actor, taking us deep into a world where emotion and integrity are in conflict with the rules of the game.

After several acclaimed productions in Australia and winning the Australian Writers' Guild Award for Drama, the play received its European premiere at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London's West End in April 2022. It was produced by Empire Street Productions, directed by Justin Martin, and starred Jodie Comer, the Emmy and Bafta Award-winning star of TV's Killing Eve, making her West End debut.

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Scene One
Every single one.
Primed for the race.
Every muscle pumped
trained and ready for the sprint.
Hold it together.
Hold back.
Keep the blood
at just the right temperature.
Just below boil.
Waiting at the starting gates,
‘all stand’,
out of the stalls.
Hold back.
Push forward.
Know when to have restraint,
when to find an opening.
Ready to jump when the other side falters.
Watching, waiting.
Nerves taut,
mind operating on ten tracks at once.
Blood pumping.
tightly wound,
waiting to spring.
It’s starting to open up,
This is the measure of your skill set,
the calm before.
there it is.
Instinct pushes me forward.
[Hold everything in one place.]
I’m on my feet.
zooming in on me.
‘Submission granted.’
My client,
big guy,
looks stunned.
Doesn’t quite know I’ve won a point,
but he feels the shift.
Likes it.
My client hates the witness,
but for me,
the witness is just
‘the witness’.
I sit down.
The prosecution finishes.
Then it’s time.
The judge looks at me:
‘It’s your witness Ms Ensler.’
The witness is mine!
The witness breathes in.
I stand up,
slowly, do up the button on my jacket.
Courtroom silent,
waiting for moi.
Keep it cool,
Play it.
Play it,
it’s yours.
[You’re holding it in the palm of your hand.]
Play with it.
Stretch it out,
it’s yours.
It’s the best part.
All instinct.
Ask the question.
Repeat the answer;
repeat it again.
Watch his face,
let him think I’m getting mixed up;
that I’m a bit slow in understanding what happened.
Flick through some pages;
let him think I’ve lost my way.
Hear breathing.
A snicker from prosecution counsel.
Very good.
flick through papers.
My client shifts uncomfortably in the dock.
Then I repeat the question,
watch the witness relax.
Shoulders move back;
‘This one doesn’t seem to know what she’s doing.’
Judge expressionless.
This judge has seen me before,
seen the likes of me.
Question one.
Question two.
Look worried about the answers.
This emboldens him.
Watch, yes,
here he goes.
Let the witness talk,
over talk.
Let him ‘clarify’.
‘Thanks for that, I wasn’t sure…’
See his eyes dismiss me,
‘This one must be straight out of uni or something;
she’s not that good.’
TESSA laughs.
It relaxes him.
He’s got the upper hand
he is now not careful
not afraid
no longer
He says something inconsistent.
I let him explain it to me.
I’m nodding.
He digs himself in deeper.
‘Okay’ I say ‘that’s a bit clearer now, but…’
He volunteers more information.
I see the prosecutor
put a finger to his own forehead.
He knows.
And I know.
But the guy about to bury himself talks on and on.
I circle him,
nodding approval.
‘Oh I see, but why did that happen?’
Judge’s face a mask,
but the judge knows.
There’s blood in the water and I let the witness swim on.
No one can help him.
And he
swims right into it.
He leans back,
flash of confidence across his face.
I let him
feel his control.
Feel SAFE.
He crosses his arms as I approach.
I circle.
Circle again.
flick through some pages.
The judge and the other lawyers know what’s coming.
They know,
they cringe for him.
But they love it, they lean forward.
The jury, the people in the public gallery,
no idea.
And him, in the witness box,
the one I am talking to,
no clue.
No. Fucking. Clue.
‘And, sorry but, just to clarify, I do have one more question –
I hope you don’t mind – it will help me get the full picture’ /
Was that an eye-roll from him?
But if he was watching the prosecution counsel
the guy who’s turning his head down to the table.
He night know
he might sense.
If he wasn’t so sure, so cocky,
he’d feel it.
Something is about to go down.
But nup, he’s in his element.
Thinks he is the cat
and I am the mouse.
The prosecution counsel looks up.
[A moment.]
I stop moving.
Stop paper shuffling.
Look right at the witness.
I ask my question.
A strange flicker across his face,
he glances quickly to the prosecutor.
Prosecutor can’t say anything,
but his eyes,
the prosecutor’s eyes are straining, trying to say:
Keep your wits about you.
Don’t fall into this trap.’
my last circle.
I fire four questions like bullets.
Bang bang.
Utter annihilation.
And the look I get;
You fucking idiot.
You thought you had this.
But here I am.
Watch the witness sweat.
The people in the gallery lean forward;
Imitates them with glee.
She’s good.’
My client, the accused,
is awestruck.
My eyes are on the witness’s face.
Now for the first time he actually sees me.
He’s furious
‘Answer the question please Mr Bateman.’
The prosecutor sits at the bar table, head down.
It’s all over now,
he knows it,
I know it,
the judge knows it,
and the witness is about to really know it.
‘Your honour, the witness is not answering the question.’
Sweetest voice ever.
The judge reminds Mr Bateman that he must answer the question.
‘Answer counsel’s question please Mr Bateman.’
A look of sheer hatred,
at me.
He is cornered.
He is fucked.
His head is down,
he mumbles something.
‘I’m sorry I didn’t hear that.’
Judge: ‘You need to speak into t...

Table of contents

Citation styles for Prima Facie (NHB Modern Plays)
APA 6 Citation
Miller, S. (2022). Prima Facie (NHB Modern Plays) ([edition unavailable]). Nick Hern Books. Retrieved from (Original work published 2022)
Chicago Citation
Miller, Suzie. (2022) 2022. Prima Facie (NHB Modern Plays). [Edition unavailable]. Nick Hern Books.
Harvard Citation
Miller, S. (2022) Prima Facie (NHB Modern Plays). [edition unavailable]. Nick Hern Books. Available at: (Accessed: 15 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Miller, Suzie. Prima Facie (NHB Modern Plays). [edition unavailable]. Nick Hern Books, 2022. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.