Fleabag review – back on stage in filthy splendour

Soho theatre, London
Phoebe Waller-Bridge follows up her TV hit with a magnificent monologue

It’s not so unusual for a successful Edinburgh show to become a television series, but it is rare to see it come full circle and return to the stage in its original form, so that those familiar with the screen incarnation have the sense of watching a blueprint in which whole episodes or characters are contained in a single line. Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s 2013 fringe hit Fleabag has been one of the most talked-about TV comedies of the year, and this revival of the original monologue is a reminder of what a fresh voice she is.

The subject matter is hardly unique; a twentysomething woman trying to find her way in the adult world through fleeting sexual encounters is well-trodden territory, but Waller-Bridge brings a contemporary edge and a very English awkwardness and pathos to her character. She gives an engaging performance, at times interacting with recorded characters, at others confiding in the audience directly in a manner that transferred surprisingly effectively to the screen. But alone on stage she has the chance to show her skills as a character comic in her sarcastic portrayal of her various hook-ups – the man with the tiny mouth attacking a guinea pig is a particular highlight.

Here she offers a more poignant exploration of how a culture of easily available porn and economic insecurity might lead a young woman to believe her body is her only valid currency. Though the hour-long monologue is a masterclass in economic storytelling and its narrative is satisfyingly self-contained, there’s certainly a feeling that this character has more stories to tell. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait too long for a sequel, on stage or screen.


Stephanie Merritt

The GuardianTramp

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