Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s one-woman show ‘Fleabag’ is unbelievably rude, astoundlingly filthy and she’s almost certainly going to go to hell for it. It is also extremely funny and confirms Waller-Bridge – the best thing in the recent West End revival of Noël Coward’s ‘Hay Fever’and star of Jack Thorne’s bathtub-set hit ‘Mydidae’ – as a serious talent to watch.
In an hour-long monologue that is never less than outrageous, Waller-Bridge plays the porn-obsessed, hard-drinking, sexually voracious owner of a guinea-pig-themed café. As ‘Fleabag’ kicks off, she’s half-heartedly mourning the accidental suicide of her best friend, has just been dumped by her boyfriend for having ‘a horrible wank’ in bed while he was trying to sleep, and is on the verge of losing the café.
Talking at a rate of knots with well-spoken, casually withering assurance, Waller-Bridge has created a monster of sorts. Her eponymous ‘heroine’ is a creature of pure id who doesn’t give a shit about anyone else, leaving a trail of blithe devastation in her path as she fucks or fucks over everyone she encounters.
In the first half, the funniness of the lines and narcissistic chutzpah of Fleabag’s behaviour make for an exhilarating ride – she’s obviously a terrible person, but her total disregard for any sort of social convention is winning. Later on, her chickens come home to roost, which I found a touch problematic: I don’t really get the impression that Waller-Bridge is warning about the dangers of unladylike behaviour, but it’s at risk of looking that way.
Nonetheless, the élan of the performance is easily enough to bring ‘Fleabag’ romping home, and if the tone shifts in the second half, it’s all still gloriously inappropriate – certainly it’ll put you off guinea pigs for life.
By Andrzej Lukowski