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And all star, one-woman show
I don’t know what I can say here that hasn’t been said a hundred times over by people far more articulate than I am. Frankly, I should save us all some time, if you’re reading this article while procrastinating work or defusing a timebomb, for example; so we can skip the formalities:
Is Fleabag good? Yes, it is. It’s brilliant.
It’s always sad saying goodbye – whether it’s to a family member before you go back to University, a friend moving away, or any dog you see on public transport – even a fond farewell can be a hard one. So to see the incredible Phoebe Waller-Bridge leaving Fleabag behind, revisiting the one-woman show first performed at the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe (to incredible praise), I felt a mix of panicked excitement and dread. Fleabag was coming back, for a limited time, and then it would be gone – likely forever.
Before I talk about the play, I want to take a moment to talk about where the play was performed. Wyndham’s Theatre is a modest venue by West End standards, nestled somewhat quietly off Leicester Square between a handful of bars and an Angus Steakhouse (no relation). The interior, however, very much a classic theatre space, all ornate walls and grand space. It almost felt silly, then, that the stage’s only feature was a single chair. The stage and the seating seem divided, which is ironic considering Waller-Bridge’s performance.
The conceit of Fleabag addressing its viewers, hardly a new theatrical device, is a far more intimate thing to experience in person. Rather than the charming asides and quick cuts of the series, the titular Fleabag talks to the audience, an extended monologue that explores bastardised feminism, corrupted mourning and of course: what it is like to do a sex thing. Director Vicky Jones reunites with Phoebe Waller-Bridge for this final lap, and her invisible presence is no doubt a considerable contribution to the play’s quality, save for the performance of the unique on-stage talent. Waller-Bridge’s dialogue and delivery are dazzling, hysterical and painfully human; Fleabag could easily be a story you heard from someone in a pub – albeit a long one. Viewers of the series would find the premise to be similar to the series one plot – albeit with some crucial tangents – but in a more raw form. Yes, TV fans could mouth along to some of the comedic moments, but the darker sides of Fleabag’s story still merit heartbreak. Like seeing a rock that’s been thrown at your face: knowing it’s coming doesn’t mean it hurts less.
I would refer back to my one-line review at the top of this page: Fleabag is brilliant. This final series of performances feel like a swansong – a conversation between actor and character. Waller-Bridge’s fame eclipses Fleabag now – for proof of that, look her up on IMDB.
Eventually, every performer has to move on to new projects, and Waller-Bridge is no different.
Still, it’s always sad saying goodbye.