Months after the acclaimed television adaptation, and weeks after the tickets for this run were snapped up in a record-breaking ten minutes, Phoebe Waller-Bridge brings the Fleabag back to Soho Theatre.
This is filthily funny monologue that started it all back in 2013. The unnamed protagonist is a clever, witty, and desperately lonely young woman, battered by grief after losing both her mother and her best friend and left rattling round London, numbed to almost all emotional connection.
Only sex can chisel through the brick wall, and then only briefly. The writing is full of sexual frankness and staggeringly whip-smart dark humour. It also explores the desire that women often feel, to be free of the need to assess your every thought and deed on its feminist credentials; Fleabag’s too clever to think feminism doesn’t matter to her but too sad to do much about it.
Waller-Bridge and Fleabag’s director Vicky Jones, regular collaborators, used to run new writing evenings exploring how best to manipulate an audience: how to make them love a character, hate them, pity them; how to make them laugh and then feel shocked at themselves for laughing. Nowhere are those skills better employed than here. While the – excellent – television adaptation has more time and room to expand the character’s world, the play’s brilliant liveness, performed on a plain stage, more than makes up for that.
As both writer and performer, Waller-Bridge knows how to work a crowd, and from the show’s bittersweet beginning to its devastating end, she has the entire room in the palm of her hand.