Fleabag review: Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s filthy comedy is even more hilarious and heartbreaking live ★★★★

The comic actress returns to the stage to perform the one-woman show that inspired her acclaimed BBC3 sitcom

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Before it was a BBC3 mega-hit, Fleabag was a one-woman stage show.

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That woman was of course Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who first performed it at the Edinburgh Festival in 2013 after raising the funds on Kickstarter. For a fortnight only, the original show is back at London’s Soho Theatre and fans of the TV version won’t be disappointed.

Gone are the well-known comedy faces who play Fleabag’s nearest and not-so-dearest in the BBC version, which was first shown online but swiftly promoted to BBC2. This is just her: sat on a chair on the stage for an hour, apart from when she leaps off to demonstrate how she photographs her vagina. (If you’ve yet to have the pleasure of Fleabag’s acquaintance, it gets a lot ruder.)

Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Fleabag (photo by Tristram Kenton)

Waller-Bridge plays almost everyone: uptight sister, lewd brother-in-law, Fleabag’s only loyal customer, her rodent-faced lover, her dead best friend. There’s even an uncanny impression of Hugh Skinner playing her wet lettuce of a boyfriend. She lurches effortlessly from one character to the next, all the while playing Fleabag and throwing knowing grimaces at the audience. 

Devotees of the BBC3 series will be familiar with most of the scenes, but the filthy gags are still brilliant second time round and Fleabag’s destructive behaviour and moments of bleak lucidity are still heartrending. If anything, the live show feels ever rawer.

The bad news is that if you don’t already have a ticket, you’ll have to pray for a return or bribe one of the lucky people who does. Thanks to the power of TV, they sold out in just 10 minutes.

The good news: the theatre company behind Fleabag, DryWrite, have written another one-woman show that will premiere next July. Starring Welsh actress Amy Morgan (Grace in Mr Selfridge), Touch is about a 33-year-old who has just moved to London and also has – hurrah – a messy sex life.

Touch is at Soho Theatre from 6 July to 12 August 2017

 

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