5 Reasons You Need To See FleabagBack to
Told directly to the audience by the play’s titular character, Fleabag follows the previous few days of her life, related as one big humorous tale – until soon we realise not all is well in Fleabag’s life.
A tale of loss and grief smothered by sexual promiscuity, wisecracks and disintegrating self-worth, Fleabag shatters unrealistic portrayals of women via an antiheroine who is savagely honest, chummily sardonic and whip-smart funny.
Written by, and originally starring, British actor Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the work was the white-hot hit of the 2013 Edinburgh Festival Fringe and was adapted into a Bafta-awarded comedy drama, also starring Waller-Bridge, for the BBC three years later.
1. The play has no set, just Fleabag on a stool with a spotlight, various sound-effects and dialogue that does not hold back:
“Three nights ago I ordered myself a very slutty pizza… I mean, the bitch was dripping.”
“I find my sister outside the lecture hall. She’s uptight and beautiful. Probably anorexic but clothes look awesome on her so…”
“Mum died two years ago. She had a double mastectomy but never really recovered. It was particularly hard because she had amazing boobs.”
2. Fleabag’s Sydney Festival season features British actor Maddie Rice (hand-picked by Waller-Bridge and director Vicky Jones, who produced Fleabag in 2013 for their theatre company DryWrite). Rice calls Fleabag “a comedy with a horrible punch at the end.”
3. Originally a 10-minute monologue, Fleabag was written at the last minute after a writer pulled out of a show at the Edinburgh Fringe. Waller-Bridge based it on aspects of her own life (Fleabag is her real-life nickname), although the character is essentially a portrait of life for women in a world awash with sex ideals and fast relationships and pressures to be pretty and a good girl while also appearing tough and in control.
4. Waller-Bridge was virtually unknown when Fleabag premiered in Edinburgh. Four years later she has been cast in the upcoming Star Wars movie Solo, is filming Killing Eve, an eight-part drama she wrote for American TV, and is writing a second series of Fleabag for the BBC for 2018.
5. Anyone who has seen the six-part TV series, which featured Waller-Bridge as a chicly trench-coated protagonist with brilliant-red lipstick and chic sleek bob ushering audiences through her jagged life via cutting to-camera asides, will want to see the dark, witty, truthful play that started it all.
Catch Fleabag at Carriageworks as part of About an Hour between 22 and 27 January.
Lenny Ann Low is a writer and journalist. She was an arts and entertainment writer and columnist at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, a Sydney Writers' Festival moderator and a performer with physical theatre group Frumpus.