Fleabag Soho Theatre review – both waving and drowning

fleabag soho theatre review

First a play, then a hit TV show, now a play once more, Fleabag is a masterclass in the art of waving and drowning. In her one-woman show, Phoebe Waller-Bridge explores the darkly hilarious story of a woman dealing with trauma on her own terms…

I wasn’t sure what to expect of the play version of a TV series I had loved so much.

I knew that Phoebe Waller-Bridge had started out with a stage show at the Edinburgh Fringe that had inspired the series, but would this be the same show?

It turned out that the hour-long stage show covered much of the same material as the series, but with the buzz and immediacy of it being live.

For one thing, there was a real live woman’s body in front of us, in a small auditaurium, and that makes a difference. We go through our lives as women, in our bodies, and when we look at another woman’s body it means something particular. And Fleabag frequently references her body in the show. She talks about her dead mum’s tits and her sister’s tits, and how they are whoppers or small or taken away in a mastectomy.

Fleabag builds the world (specifically a youngish woman’s world) with a few phrases and gestures that evoke the whole experience; trying to get money, to get sex, to make sense of the world as a woman.

She also builds her world as a woman who’s had a traumatic experience, and one who is bright and funny. You want to be in Fleabag’s company, to laugh and feel her desperation, her compassion, her lack of compassion and her human-ness.

She does something I’ve never seen done in a performance before. She talks to me like one of my friends might.

For me, the best bits are her imagined conversations with her sister. People have compared Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s work to Lena Dunham’s, but hers is a particularly English version of humour and being a woman. Sort of like a ‘girl’ version of Peep Show, and just as dark.

Fleabag had a short run at the Soho Theatre in the close of 2016, but if you ever get the chance, see this woman live – she is fabulous.