The Theatreguide.London Review
Wyndham's Theatre Autumn 2019
The monologue that begat the TV series that begat the second series that begat a whole new career and deserved stardom for writer-performer Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag has been revived for a limited run.
despite reports that it is completely sold out, I urge you to find
your way to a ticket.
uninterruptedly hilarious portrait of a young woman drowning in
irresponsible self-indulgence, Fleabag won every award going at its
Edinburgh Fringe debut in 2013 and subsequent transfers to London,
New York, Australia and everywhere else.
Both as writer and
and with the invaluable guidance of director Vicky Jones,
Waller-Bridge brings her slightly grotesque but wholly believable
character to life while just sitting on a stool on a bare stage.
Fleabag (evidently her
wryly self-appointed nickname) is a
twenty-something woman of solidly middle-class background who is at
best floating aimlessly through life and at worst destroying herself.
She is pathetic and occasionally repellent and irresistibly loveable
and very very funny.
When I first saw the
monologue in 2013 – see
my original review below – it seemed to be about someone coming out
of the extended adolescence of university and resisting adulthood
with all her might, with some hopeful hints near the end that she was
finally ready to begin the process of growing up.
The thrust of the
story seems to have changed, and I don't know if playwright
Waller-Bridge has rewritten it, actor Waller-Bridge is playing it
differently, or I am just hearing it with six-years-older ears.
This time around Fleabag seems less resistant to responsibility than unequipped for it. She is clearly grieving more than she realises for a dead friend, faces the collapse of the small business she's been playing at, and is painfully alienated from the sister and father she disdains but desperately wants to reconnect with.
And her compulsive
promiscuity, alcoholism and general irresponsibility are not
hedonistic choices but the only coping mechanisms in her very limited
Have I mentioned that
she is very funny? The
just-over-an-hour monologue is not just sprinkled with comic
one-liners – 'I'm not obsessed with sex. I just can't stop thinking
about it' – and comic set pieces – imitating a big-busted woman
struggling with a refrigerator door, or a pet guinea pig listening to
music. It is made up entirely of them.
There is hardly a single
straight line in the monologue, and yet out of all the laughs comes
the sympathetic and deeply moving portrait of a woman in pain.
perhaps I will make it sound more attractive by saying it is the
portrait of a woman in pain that is hilarious from start to finish.
In either case, run. Do not walk.
Here's what I wrote about Fleabag in 2013:
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