From a play to a television series and, now re-visited in play form, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag arrives, at the Curve Leicester Studio space, itching to scratch below the skin of its unflinching tale. Here it sits on a single high chair of sexually explicit confessions until 19th May. Most of the audience will be here because of the 2016 television show and keen to see how Fleabag translates into a sixty minute, one woman show. This reviewer is also one of those curious beings. Unlike in some of Fleabag’s, randomly chosen, sexual encounters; he doesn’t leave the building disappointed.
The show is presented by Soho Theatre (touring) and DryWrite, a multi-award winning and Olivier nominated new writing theatre company that ‘challenges writers to work with specific briefs and goals to actively engage audiences with argument and action’. Well, there is no argument that Fleabag is an engaging work and, to some more sensitive souls, its openly discussed sex related subjects would be a challenge even if they are blushing and laughing at Fleabag’s direct frankness.
Maddie Rice (Fleabag) is a one woman wonder; she adroitly holds the audience in the palm of her hand for an hour. She wins us over with a charming dexterity that is full of wide eyed wonder at the disaster that is her on-off relationship with boyfriend Harry. Her adulterous adventures in London and its, often sordid environs, with a variety of men, are jigsaw pieced in with other tales. We hear of crap job interviews; dealing with a failing café and its resident guinea pig Harriet; the unexpected death of her business partner Boo whose voice still lingers on voice mails and the ever present need to assuage her constant sexual needs. Rice is very funny and comically filthy without the need to shove it in our faces – so to speak.
Actor-playwright Phoebe Waller-Bridge writes that, in creating her character, she wanted Fleabag thus: … ‘a young, sex-obsessed, angry, dry witted woman and the main focus of the process was her direct relationship with the audience and how she tries to manipulate and amuse and shock them, moment by moment, until she eventually bares her soul… The absolute ideal situation was that at the beginning you should feel she wants you there but at the end she wishes she hadn’t let you in.’ This audience tonight certainly seem glad to be there for the enormously amusing revelations and are shocked/sympathetic for one life changing action she has to take. For once the laughter dies and silence hangs over the audience as the actor’s actions convey the personal decision she has to make for another being other than herself. No spoilers here folks.
Other Fleabag voice-overs come from Holly Pigott, Adam Brace, Charlotte McBrearty, Teresa Waller-Bridge, Vicky Jones and Charlie Walker-Wise.
Directed by Vicky Jones, co-artistic director of DryWrite with Phoebe Waller-Bridge, this show is everything you’d expect and more and comes highly recommended from this reviewer.
Reviewer: Phil Lowe