Fleabag – Edinburgh festival 2013 review

Underbelly
Phoebe Waller-Bridge's up-for-anything antiheroine provides a distinctive take on the effects of porn on 21st-century women

Forty years ago, Erica Jong coined the phrase "zipless fuck", denoting a sexual encounter which allowed women to engage their genitals without engaging their emotions. Four decades on, the antiheroine of Phoebe Waller-Bridge's monologue (which she also performs, brilliantly) is a sexually liberated 21st-century woman. Casual anal sex? Fleabag's up for it. Threesomes? Count Fleabag in, even if she is having her period, as evidenced by the bloody handprint on the wall of the bedroom she shares with her boyfriend. Or at least she did share it with him until her YouPorn habit got too much for him.

Some women embrace their inner goddess, but Fleabag has proudly embraced her inner slut. After all, isn't that what it means to be a liberated woman today? Yet it gradually becomes clear during this gleefully filthy monologue that Fleabag may not be quite all she appears.

There has been plenty of chatter about the effect that porn has on the sexual expectations of young men and their relationships with women. But what about a generation of women, now in their late 20s, whose sexual imaginations have been colonised by the availability of pornographic images, and who have both a casual sense of entitlement and the feeling they can't live up to everything that is expected of them? No wonder so many implode.

Waller-Bridge hasn't produced a flawless piece of writing – the job-interview framing device feels imposed and there are some false notes in Fleabag's encounters with others – but it is a hugely distinctive one, which makes you both laugh and choke at the same time. While it would be possible to argue that this plays directly into stereotypes of bad, mad girls, it also gives voice to the suspicion that a generation has fallen for the myth that liberation isn't about equality in the workplace, the kitchen and the bedroom but about watching porn while masturbating and eating home-delivery pizza.

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Contributor

Lyn Gardner

The GuardianTramp

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