Pros: Beautifully written and brilliantly acted; Fleabag is hilarious, irreverent and touching. This is a highly charged, potent, yet poignant performance. Phoebe Waller-Bridge is incredible – a truly exceptional talent.
Cons: More conservative audience members may find some of the sexual content a little uncomfortable.
Every now and then, you see a play that just grabs you, draws you in, shakes you up, twists you round then leaves you feeling bereft and empty when its over. Fleabag is a just such a thing and it is incredible that this debut by Phoebe Waller-Bridge is such a perfectly formed and brilliantly executed drama. And yes its funny – in your face, no holes barred, disgustingly, shockingly, heart-warmingly, pitifully hilarious. Don’t mistake this one-hour, one-woman show for stand up comedy though – this is a fully fledged story of the twenty six year old, Fleabag, and the people that come and go at a particular time in her life.
The play opens with Fleabag attending a job interview where an innocent faux pas implicates her as a sexual predator. It’s a comedy of errors and at this point and we are laughing along at her predicament. We are then launched compulsively head first into her world – she needs the job because her guinea pig themed café has gone bust after the death of her best friend and business partner, Boo, a tragic suicidal accident in a bike lane. Fleabag’s boyfriend has left her (again), probably due to her obsession with porn and masturbation and we learn of her distant relationship with her successful sister and her widowed father. There are other characters too – Joe the café regular, Tube Rodent, Drunk Girl and Hilary, Boo’s guinea pig among others. The characters and relationships between them are intricately portrayed and utterly believable. We get to know them all and Fleabag’s story bounces and twists between them like roller coaster without brakes.
Fleabag herself is so compelling – complex, engaging and amiable yet at the same time distasteful and insensitive. We are drawn in to her charismatic, bubbly honesty, a sympathy which is then punished as she reveals her disdain and apathy towards those around her. Her infectious humour and personality is at odds with her toxic selfishness and this portrayal found me debating how I felt about her all the way home. I then had to remind myself that Fleabag is not a real life person, or maybe she is, and it was then that I realised that the perfectly pitched writing and Waller-Bridge’s powerhouse performance had hit its mark. I totally believed Fleabag, and everything she did and said. She is a completely finished article and I didn’t know whether I wanted to hug her or slap her. This is really clever stuff.
This play has already been given many accolades – A Fringe First Award in Edinburgh, The Most Promising New Playwright and Best Female Performance at the Offies, The Stage Award for Best Solo Performer and the Critics Circle Award for Most Promising Playwright. Fleabag has an enduring quality and the audience loved it. I’m sure it will be performed in many locations and perhaps by many actors in years to come. The magic that Phoebe Waller-Bridge and director, Vicki Jones, create when Fleabag steps onto the stage is powerful. It’s an utterly fantastic show at a buzzing venue and I urge you to get to the Soho Theatre and see it.
Written and performed by: Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
Director: Vicki Jones.
Producer: Francesca Moody
Box office: 0207 4780100.
Booking link: https://sohotheatre.ticketsolve.com/shows/873510874/events
Booking until: 25th May