Prima Facie – five stars (and maybe 1.5 CPD points too?)

Sheridan Harbridge in barrister mode in Prima Facie

Prima Facie – five stars (and maybe 1.5 CPD points too?)

Is it kosher for Victorian lawyers to claim CPD points for attending a Melbourne Theatre Company play? Probably not. But you should see MTC’s current production of Prima Facie anyway.

Prima Facie is a one-person performance starring Sheridan Harbridge as Sydney criminal defence barrister Tessa. When we first meet Tessa she has ample work, friends, invitations, and a growing profile. Life and the law are both marvellous for Tessa. She defends sexual assault prosecutions (and much else besides) with zeal and frequent success.

But then one night things go very awry and, 763 days later, Tessa finds herself under cross-examination as the complainant in her own sexual assault case.

Yes, it sounds very zeitgeist and Me Too but there is so much more to this production than, say, a clumsy Lisa Wilkinson spray about Brittany Higgins and Bruce Lehrmann.

The play is tightly written by Suzie Miller and directed by Lee Lewis.

The result is excellent. It is an hour and a half of intelligent, often funny, frequently sad, always thought-provoking words, all grippingly delivered by a single actress whose only physical stage prop is a solitary office chair.

This is a mainstream play that is not especially directed at Australian lawyers but it will captivate lawyers and non-lawyers without the usual toe-curling legal inaccuracies and Americanisms that afflict so many legal dramas.

I give it 5 stars. (So, incidentally, does The Age.)

Now for the legal blogger’s musings:

  • My subsequent ruminations about the legal policy dilemmas in Prima Facie reminded me that the law of rape is about to be modified in Victoria with the introduction from 1 July 2023 of an “affirmative consent” requirement and with it the likelihood that rape conviction rates might increase. (Here is a link to the Justice Legislation Amendment (Sexual Offences and Other Matters) Act 2022 itself and a Victorian Government press release about the changes.)
  • Most practising lawyers in Victoria are required to complete 10 CPD (Continuing Professional Development) points before 31 March of each year. (See the Victoria Legal Service Board & Commissioner’s summary of requirements here.) That means you have about 6 weeks left.
  • Prima Facie finishes a week earlier on 25 March 2023. So, on the outside chance I’m mistaken in my opening suggestion that an excellent night at the theatre won’t qualify as professional development, you can and should get Prima Facie tickets before you finalize your CPD requirements for the year. After all, Prima Facie tickets are much more likely to sell out than any conventional CPD seminar on your radar.

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