Only minutes into today's matinee performance of Prima Facie, the Broadway solo play had to pause as its star Jodie Comer stopped and told the audience she was having trouble breathing. It's perhaps unsurprising as smoke from wildfires in Canada have led to some of the worst air quality New York City has experienced in years, turning the sky shades of hazy yellow and orange and making the city suddenly smell like a campfire. New York City currently has the worst air quality in the world, according to IQAir.
Per the production's press team, “Today’s matinee of Prima Facie was halted approximately 10 minutes into the performance after Jodie Comer had difficulty breathing due to the poor air quality in New York City because of smoke from the Canadian wildfires. The performance was set to start again from the top with understudy Dani Arlington going on for Ms. Comer in the role of Tessa.” Reports via social media and Variety indicate that Comer was helped off the stage by a member of the production.
In addition to the Canadian wildfires, which are the primary contributor to current climate conditions in the city, New Jersey has also recently experienced a string of wildfires with thousands of acres burning since last week. The New York area is currently under an Air Quality Red Alert as issued by the National Weather Service, and flights were grounded at LaGuardia Airport earlier today. With projections indicating that air quality is likely to get worse and remain unhealthy to breathe through tomorrow, the issue could continue to cause trouble for Broadway ahead of the Tony Awards this weekend.
Comer received a 2023 Tony nomination for her Broadway debut in the Olivier-winning play which runs at the John Golden Theatre for an extended engagement through July 2. It opened April 23. Read the reviews here.
The play follows British defense lawyer Tessa who works her way from a working-class background to a rising star in the legal field. Often assigned to defend men accused of sexual assault, she dedicates her career to a system she believes in. But her whole world is thrown into question after she ends up in the witness stand.
Prima Facie has its origins in when playwright Suzie Miller was a law student and then a defense lawyer. Miller seeks to “call out the legal system” and highlight one of the issues which continues post the #MeToo movement. Read more about how Miller developed the play and how it's been a catalyst for real change in her interview with Playbill.
Miller will soon adapt the play for the screen in a recently announced film adaptation starring Tony winner Cynthia Erivo. BAFTA winner and Emmy nominee Susanna White will direct.
Justin Martin (The Jungle) directs the production which features an original score by Rebecca Lucy Taylor (aka Self Esteem), scenic and costume design by Miriam Buether, lighting design by Natasha Chivers, sound design by Ben and Max Ringham, and video by William Williams for Treatment Studio. Buether received a 2023 Tony nomination for her scenic design while Chivers, and Ben and Max Ringham have been nominated in their categories, respectively.
Partnering with organizations to further change, the Broadway production works with U.K.-based charity The Schools Consent Project, which seeks to educate young people on issues surrounding consent and sexual assault. It has also launched the Prima Facie Pro Bono Project, offering low-priced ticket lottery and rush tickets at every performance, while also providing free ticket access to specific partner and community organizations.
The show does include a trigger warning for including sensitive subject matters with references to sex, violence, and sexual assault.
Prima Facie is produced by Empire Street Productions, Elizabeth Armstrong, Barbara Broccoli, Caiola Productions, Kristin Caskey, Echo Lake Entertainment, Eilene Davidson Productions, Eleanor Lloyd Productions, Faliro House, FilmNation Entertainment, Dale Franzen, L.T.D. Productions Inc., Holly Anderson Levow, Stephanie P. McClelland, Olympus Theatricals, Rachel Sussman and The Shubert Organization.
Take a look at the Broadway production below.