Phoebe Waller-Bridge's one woman show Fleabag is an entertaining smutty, funny and bittersweet tale. In Mydidae she was naked but here her character's soul is laid bare, as "Fleabag", a woman obsessed with sex. Everything leads to sex from a dripping stuffed crust pizza to a chance encounter with an ugly man on the tube. But amongst all the wild crazy hedonism emerges a real vulnerable person who is coming to the end of period of her life, even if she does not know it yet.
Sitting on a stool under a spotlight the piece opens with Fleabag taking an interview for an office job. It soon goes horribly wrong which then leads to her confessional-like monologue on her life. It is a life is full of asides about her ex-boyfriend, her family, casual sex and her friend, with who she ran a hamster-themed coffee shop with until her death.
It is a testament to the quality of the writing and the performance that the hour breezes by. At times Waller-Bridge delivers the piece like a stand up routine which could make her a female Jack Whitehall. But performance is finely balanced between slutty antics and intense vulnerability which gives the piece its dramatic fire. Towards the end of the piece Fleabag says in despair, "Either everyone feels like this a little bit and they're just not talking about it, or I'm completely fucking alone." Perhaps it is its brutal honesty and that everyone does feel like this a little bit like that which makes this piece deliver.
@Johnnyfoxlondon and @gioinlondon we couldn't help but start to think of Fleabag-minded people. Maybe there is a bit of Fleabag in all of us. For instance Fleabag taking pictures in a disabled toilet of her private parts reminded me of a colleague bragging about all the photos she used to take in disabled toilet at work for another guy. She also showed me the ones he took for her which meant a subsequent lunch between the three of us felt a little more awkward than necessary.
With all the recent discussions about sex-obsession and exposure to internet pornography, along with stories about women redefining pornography (I think that means making it acceptable either through mainstream movies or arty new novels), it couldn't feel more topical and relevant either. She may not be the first character to give an expletive ridden tirade, but it is a work of genius to make her feel so likable. Perhaps you're aware that you are still at the theatre and not at the psychiatrists which makes it seem okay.
Ultimately it is a piece that is deservedly getting plenty of attention. It has already won the Fringe First award in Edinburgh and been nominated for best solo performer in this year’s Stage Awards for Acting Excellence. It has also been optioned for a television show by Two Brothers Pictures, best known for making Full English for Channel 4.
But for now it is on Upstairs at the Soho Theatre for a limited run until 22 September at 7pm. Grab a ticket if they are still available... Until the next run and guest performances...
Photo credit: production photos from Edinburgh by Richard Davenport