Fleabag

Phoebe Waller-Bridge
DryWrite
Soho Theatre
to

Already award-winning and a play that colleague Philip Fisher enjoyed so much that he went back a second time when this first played last year, this really is funny, though its not for the prudish.

If you had told me beforehand that vaginal selfies were a subject for laughter, I might have been put off, but Phoebe Waller-Bridge, as writer and performer, is so up front (and that’s not meant as a pun) that you would have to be very uptight not to enjoy it.

A young audience packing the theatre and out for a good time helped, but this rude, fast-paced ego-exposure by a woman claiming she’s not obsessed with sex but “just can’t stop thinking about it” earns its accolades.

It is a solo performance, apart from a few pre-recorded voices (and cueing of these and the sound effects is spot on), that Waller-Bridge sustains for an hour, most of the time in a chair but always animated.

Framed by a job interview (by a boss who has been charged with inappropriate touching), it ranges across Fleabag’s sex life, her failing Guinea-pig Café and its customers, its co-owner, best-friend Boo whose suicide bid wasn’t supposed to succeed but went wrong, tube pick-ups and obsessed boyfriends, her father (would he fancy her if she wasn’t his daughter?) and his new wife, online sex and the terrible tale of what happened to Guinea-pig Hilary.

Vicky Jones's direction keeps balance between the natural and the theatrical. Delivery comes in spontaneous bursts, sentence ends sometimes fading but, spotlit on a low platform, what could be a personal chat remains performance in a cross between stand-up and character acting and it is this that seems to allow an indulgence for language and subject that in a real-life encounter might have you looking for escape instead of being so hilarious.

Of course, it is not just about being funny. There is a dark undercurrent of insecurity, low self esteem, even guilt running through Fleabag. Humour can be a very effective vehicle for going much deeper.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton