Review: Fleabag at Wyndham’s Theatre
PUBLISHED: 17:07 29 August 2019
Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a TV superstar (Fleabag, Killing Eve), a Star Wars standout, and the feminist saviour of James Bond. But never mind all that; theatre needs her back.
Seeing her interact with an audience, and experiencing her skilful, beguiling, dangerous command of this high-wire exchange, provides a level of pleasure usually associated with a certain Hot Priest.
Fans of TV's Fleabag will recognise elements of the hourlong stage show, which Waller-Bridge is performing for the final time. There's the guinea pig-themed café, absent father and uptight sister, sexual frankness, anarchic wit, and underlying fear that she's different, wrong, alone.
Live, we get an added charge in discovering how that audience responds, whether a knowing chuckle at the "awkwardness" of sex to shrieks and applause at a provocative tale with a perfectly held punchline.
Yet the interest isn't in seeing Waller-Bridge "shock", but how Fleabag plays off it - and what lies beneath. The piece doesn't condemn, excuse or pity her, but builds empathy, even as it revels in who, unashamedly, she is.
It's also one of the funniest nights you're likely to have in a theatre - from sibling intimacy, bristling with rivalry, to a Tube 'meet-cute' or the tedious mechanics of sexting. Waller-Bridge is a dazzlingly good mimic and physical comedian: imitating a hook-up's minuscule mouth, or showing how sister Claire laughs tightly at her drunken husband's off-colour "jokes" - encapsulating a whole relationship.
Sister Isobel Waller-Bridge provides a crucial soundscape, including the indelible noise of a distressed guinea pig - all cued brilliantly by Charlotte McBrearty. Director/dramaturge Vicky Jones, who founded company DryWrite with Waller-Bridge, voices lost friend Boo, and the whole show is tribute to their glorious collaboration. Hollywood may tempt her, but I hope not forever. Onstage, Waller-Bridge is pure magic.
Rating: 5/5 Stars.
More details and tickets here.
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