by Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
Soho Theatre 21 Dean Street W1D 3NE To 25 May 2014.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Sun 5pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 1hr No interval.
TICKETS : 020 7478 0100.
Review: Carole Woddis 14 May.
Provocative premiere returns at full force.
Was there ever a more provocative debut than this? Phoebe Waller-Bridge certainly made a huge splash with Fleabag when she opened it at the Edinburgh Fringe last year. Since then, this ode to modern womanhood has picked-up every award going for most promising playwright (a lethal label really, how do you follow it?) and 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. The two plays complement 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 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, 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’s 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.
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.
Performer: Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
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.
Director/Dramaturg: Vicky Jones.
Designer: Holly Piggott.
Lighting: Elliot Griggs.
Sound: Isobel Waller-Bridge.
Associate designer: Antonia Campbell-Evans.
Associate sound: Max Pappenheim.
Presented by Drywrite and Soho Theatre.
Fleabag premiered at Underbelly Edinburgh on 1 August 2013 and transferred to Soho Theatre London on 3 September 2013. It was revived there on 7 May 2014.