Jodie Comer’s stunning stage debut

Jodie Comer’s star is resolutely in the ascendant at the moment, having been propelled there by her leading role as the chameleon Villanelle in Killing Eve. An actor that has made her name as a coquettish assassin may not seem the obvious choice to portray a fiercely ambitious barrister, but her riveting performance quickly dispenses with any niggling doubts. Comer held the stage, and the attention of the audience, with little more than office furniture for company, in a bravura solo performance as a cocksure lawyer than revels in being underestimated.

Susan Miller’s play revolves around a young woman that has used her sharp intelligence, and her sharp elbows, to forge a career in a field associated with privilege and position. Her experience at the bar permeates the ambiguity of Tessa’s moral compass, making explicit the queasy consequence of an adversarial legal system. When event’s turn in Tessa’s life, so does the play’s trajectory, in a shocking gear change that sees Comer’s performance step up to another level. Suddenly the system’s eccentricities and foibles are seen as weaknesses, rather than things to joyously exploit. Structured in the manner of a classic tragedy, Tessa’s life and her presumptions are turned on their head.

It would be easy to see Miller’s play as a polemic condemnation of our legal system, but I think she is doing something much more subtle here. There is an inherent problem with the presumption of innocence clashing with the fairness of judging a crime that, by its very nature, relies on the conflicting testimonies of two individuals. Rather than offer up easy answers, Miller instead presents the issue for us to consider and reflect upon. Supported by Comer’s faultless performance, it amounts to a gripping and thought provoking evening at the theatre.