Originally published on Public Reviews 22nd January 2015
From the moment Maddie Rice’s Fleabag runs onto the stage, flustered and late to an interview, and inadvertently flashes her bra at the manager, it is clear we are in for a filthy and hilarious evening. What soon becomes clear is just how political it all is. Like Jessica Knappett’s E4 sitcom Drifters, we follow the drift of a young female who attends feminist lectures but isn’t sure what she has to offer outside of her body; life only makes sense when she is engaged in carnal pleasure, not the sweet ‘making love’ but the hard, no holds barred variety. In a world where online porn is available with one click, when you can watch it until you’ve made yourself raw, where the next hook up is one swipe away, where are the human interactions that give life some semblance of sense?
Which makes it all sound rather Guardian-y opinion lite, but the joy of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s taut and sharp 65 minute script is just how laugh out loud funny it is. Nothing is as interesting as somebody else’s sex life and Fleabag’s is laid out for us in eye-watering detail. From messy threesomes, one night stands to the mass variety of videos on demand, she has a story to tell about them all. One joke about hamsters and pencil rubbers is snort out loud funny and one probably best not to tell your Granny. Like Drifters or The Inbetweeners that pre-date Waller-Bridge’s script, most of the comedy derives from the writing’s honesty. We’ve had these conversations. Most of us have had these experiences. We wince at how true it all sounds and dismay at how lost it is making us.
There is a great juxtaposition between Rice’s cherubic looks and the words tumbling out of her mouth. She is pretty, well spoken, an English rose to take home to meet the family as long as they don’t hear what’s happening behind the bedroom door. It is a fine performance from Rice, warm, engaging, truthful and she can flick to a different character in a curl of a lip and an unnerving ear for accents; the Cockney old geezer, the Australian manager, the rodent-looking hook up.
It’s all helmed rather impressively by director Vicky Jones, who manages to control the rhythm and texture of the piece and allows for the text’s more visceral moments to hit home hard, which obtained an audible gasp in the audience on press night. The piece finishes without necessarily answering the questions it raises about modern day feminism, but then isn’t that life, there are no easy answers and no quick-fire solutions. But with an all-female team firing on all cylinders, there is most definitely hope in this cracking piece of theatre.
Runs until 7th February 2015 before continuing its tour.