There’s always something wonderfully intimate about one-man (woman) theatre – something made all the more intimate when that one-woman is sharing details of a particularly sticky threesome. Beside me, a man holds his hand to his mouth in seemingly abject horror while on the other side, a girl shakes her head through hysterical laughter upon finding yet another sexual scenario all too painfully familiar. That ‘girl’ is of course me. Surely women don’t talk like that? Do women really think like that?! Why, yes. Yes we do and in Fleabag, we finally get to meet one such woman. Open, exposed and with the spotlight finally shining on her and all her flaws, Phoebe Waller-Bridge takes centre stage, ready to share the true story of being a 20-something female just trying to get by.
Having cleaned up on the awards circuit at Edinburgh Festival Fringe, DryWrite’s Fleabag enjoys its much deserved transfer to London’s Soho Theatre, making sure writer and performer Waller-Bridge is the name on everyone’s lips this summer.
Vulgar and unashamed, Fleabag is a revelation for those wearied by the often weak-willed approach theatre can take to female sexuality and the cut-and-paste characterisation of the ‘liberated’ woman – or indeed just the perils of being young and overwhelmed, oversexed and under pressure. Like an old friend, this character monologue is the on-stage equivalent of morning-after-the-night-before conversations or late night existential crises over corner shop bottles of wine; or at least certainly the kind of conversations I have with my friends.
Red raw, as raw as one might expect to be after a particularly vigorous session on YouPorn, Fleabag is truly unafraid. Because yes, sometimes we like to talk about masturbation; the artistic direction of sexting photography; sex with strangers. We are sweary, crude and sometimes we are bad feminsts. And this is how we talk about sex. I’m aware my prevalent use of ‘we’ wavers on the polemic but when met with theatre this unapologetic, I am allowing myself this concession. Waller-Bridge delivers a refreshing change of tone and pace, honest yet jarring, simultaneously able to make us comfortable then squirm in our seats either in embarrassment or in awkward recognition that we too have lived that particular life lesson.
Framed around a job interview that goes frightfully array, we’re invited into the fleabag’s world, discovering the characters we meet every day and also the characters we create for ourselves – the best friend, the employee, the prospective employee, the girl who wants to fuck, the feminist. But which is our true character? Fleabag is for anyone who has ever suffered a moral identity crisis or for anyone who just wants to spend the evening with a fellow flawed individual. Because we all have a bit of Fleabag in us, and anyone who says otherwise needs to have another look at themselves. Or at least their internet history.
Fleabag runs until 22 September at:
21 Dean Street