Fleabag: The Special Edition
Nick Hern Books
The joint ascent of Fleabag and Phoebe Waller-Bridge to the peak of showbiz fame has become one of the great success stories of the last few years.
The show has moved through scratch night to Edinburgh Festival Fringe, UK tour, New York and now the West End. Along the way, it has also become the progenitor of one of the most popular and successful TV series of the day.
The hour-long solo show’s success has also projected its creator / performer into the superstar bracket as the moving force behind smash hit TV series Killing Eve, acting in Star Wars movies and a commission to write the next James Bond.
This Special Edition offers two associated pleasures. Of course, there is the opportunity to enjoy and reassess the text that has caused all of the fuss at leisure, allowing time to relish every carefully chosen word and underlying thought.
In addition, there are a number of extras. Comedian Deborah Frances-White stakes a claim to being the moving force behind the phenomenon having persuaded the reluctant Miss Waller-Bridge to join one of her scratch nights with an early incarnation of the play.
There is a splendid, rather laddish (except that they are not) conversation between the writer and her close friend and director Vicky Jones featuring hearty banter about the invention and its progress from a time when members of the Fleabag team were literally obliged to share beds and beg cups of coffee to fame and fortune.
This is consolidated by brief but perceptive comments from the whole of the creative team, who have taken the show from Edinburgh through to the West End.
All of these are valuable and informative but most people buying this book will do so either because they have heard about the Fleabag theatrical phenomenon but been unable to see the show or have seen it and loved it and want to take the experience back home.
The play itself is a gem. It follows the antics of a 26-year-old woman whose business partner in a guinea pig-themed café has just died.
We discover a great deal about our flawed heroine’s love life, a fair amount about her family and begin to understand the trials and tribulations that to varying degrees affect the lives of young people today.
What starts out sounding like a highly intelligent stand-up comedy set gradually transforms into something much deeper and more serious, as the protagonist lays bare her soul.
Reading the script is very helpful, since it is all too easy to lose some of the best lines beneath audience laughter or lack of concentration when sitting in a theatre. The only disadvantage is that readers will not be able to benefit from one of the greatest joys of the production, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s impeccable comic timing, honed to perfection with Vicky Jones.
This book is a pleasure to peruse and owners are likely to return to it on a regular basis. We will all have to hope that some time in the future, its busy star finds time to write and act in more work for the stage.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher