[author-post-rating] (4/5 stars) A bittersweet, tragicomic look at life, the universe and everything from one woman’s perspective, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s new show is a cracker. A hugely impressive hour-long monologue, inter-cut with audio of some of the other people in her life as it unravels around her, the show packs a real punch. Waller-Bridge plays a woman on the brink of losing it altogether – a Bridget Jones for 2013, measuring her life in wanks, threesomes and grubby seductions rather than cigarettes and weight gain. It’s brutally honest, bitingly funny and genuinely moving exploration of a woman trying to make sense of a lonely and unfulfilling world.
Waller-Bridge is superb. Sitting on a stool, long legs akimbo, she is brash and raw in her delivery, making the audience sit up and pay attention to her. She’s estranged from her dad and sister, her boyfriend has just left her (and her self-reassurance that he’ll be back rings a little hollow), her best friend committed suicide and the guinea pig-themed cafe she runs is about to go bust. Life isn’t great. She tries to fill the void with a series of meaningless sexual encounters, working to shock with tales of threesomes and anal, a variety of porn and the idea of “pencil-fucking a hamster”.
Although the delivery is a little garbled at times, especially at the beginning, Waller-Bridge brings such an honesty to her performance that it is moving to watch despite the jokey lewdness. The script, also by Waller-Bridge, is wry, knowing and extremely well written. It’s pitched just right between voyeuristic and sympathetic – we want to know what happens in the next anecdote, but part of us just wants to give her a cuddle. She covers some deeply personal stuff, from being a bad feminist to her tricky relationship with her sister, but the “I don’t give a fuck” attitude is nicely at odds with her desire for some stability.
Clever and tender and true, this is a brilliant portrait of a woman trying to stay afloat in a world that’s trying to drown her.
Fleabag is at Underbelly until 25 August. For more information and tickets visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.