Soho Theatre, London
Runs: 60 mins no interval.
Review: by Carole Woddis of performance seen May 14, 2014:
Was there ever a more provocative debut than this? Phoebe Waller-Bridge certainly made a huge splash with Fleabag when she opened it up at Edinburgh Fringe last year. Since then, this ode to modern womanhood has picked up every award going as most promising playwright (a lethal label really, how do you follow it?) and as performer.
But follow it she did, in a sense, with DryWrite colleague Vicky Jones doing a turnabout and penning The One with Waller-Bridge this time as performer only. Together, Fleabag and The One form a complement to each other. Both portray the modern woman in all her unsavoury fullness: sexually rampant, morally dissolute and remarkably for one so young, world-wearily cynical.
Watching Phoebe Waller-Bridge performing Fleabag is a bit like watching a charging rhino. She – the character – carries all before her, transgressive, into porn, alcohol and men in no particular order. She’s cruel, heartless, and funny in a derisory, louche sort of way.
Very much of `now’, you can hear the audience sucking in their breath or whooping with recognition as she fearlessly sounds off, daring to say the unsayeable in public about the disaster that is her `guinea-pig’ themed café (don’t ask), the unfortunate mistake that ended her best friend’s life and her endless encounters with men, on the tube, at festivals, in the café and the questionable `selfies’ taken to pleasure a former boy-friend.
Seemingly nothing out of bounds or off limits, Waller-Bridge’s own performance is by turns shocking, wonderfully observed and sad. She treads a devastatingly fine line between danger and the truthfulness of the stand-up comic which kept reminding me of the late, great American satirist Lenny Bruce.
Apart from the sheer juiciness of Waller-Bridge’s writing, by the end I couldn’t help wondering if Fleabag actually wasn’t a bit of a sly warning, like Lucy Kirkwood’s NSFW, of where modern feminism has brought us to.
It’s not a pretty sight and troublingly reinforces, like The One, stereotypes of women’s desires and fantasies around rape. But there is no doubting the talent and brilliant skill employed to provoke such thoughts. You can’t leave without wondering what will come next.
Written and performed by Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Director and Dramaturg: Vicky Jones
Producer: Francesca Moody
Designer: Holly Piggott
Associate Designer: Antonia Campbell-Evans
Lighting Designer: Elliot Griggs
Sound Designer: Isobel Waller-Bridge
Associate Sound Designer: Max Pappenheim
Female Voice – Receptionist: Holly Piggott
Male Voice: Adam Brace
Female Voice: Charlotte McBrearty
Lecture-hall Tannoy/Lecturer: Teresa Waller-Bridge
Boo- Voicemail: Vicky Jones
Ex-Boyfriend-Text Message: Charlie Walker-Wise
Presented by Drywrite and Soho Theatre
Fleabag premiered at Underbelly, Edinburgh on Aug 1, 2013 and transferred to Soho Theatre, London on Sept 3, 2013. It was revived there on May 7, 2014.