Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s one woman show ‘Fleabag’ is unbelievably rude, jaw-droppingly filthy and she’s almost certainly going to go to hell for it. It is also extremely funny and confirms Waller-Bridge – best thing in the recent West End revival of Noël Coward’s ‘Hay Fever’, 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, she 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’s 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 literally 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 Waller-Bridge’s performance is enough to carry ‘Fleabag’ 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.