Your boyfriend dumps you so you go and get a new hairstyle, right? That’ll show him. Unless you’re a woman known only as Fleabag: then your reaction would be embark on a sex and booze binge, willing to shag anything that comes into your eyeline, including unattractive fellow passengers on the tube. Perhaps the man who is interviewing you for a job might appreciate a flash of your bra?
Well, your boyfriend did walk out because of that huge wank you had in bed, whilst he was trying to sleep. And the guinea-pig themed cafe that you run is losing both your interest and its custom since your best friend, Boo, accidentally killed herself in despair at her boyfriend’s infidelity. Life’s a bit shit, really. But you’ll rise above it in your own way.
Phoebe Walker-Bridge’s Fleabag is the tale of a highly sexed modern woman who seemingly doesn’t give two hoots what you think of her. She’s egotistical, pretty, witty and fearless: a modern-day (anti) heroine. She exists on a diet of web porn and chasing prey. And, it appears, no-one can really escape her smutty mind: when she rocks up, late at night, drunk and messed up at her own father’s door, she wonders, “If he saw me on the internet, would he click on me?”
Oh, does this all sound a bit too in your face? It should. Maddie Rice in the title (and only) role has a confidence that is so entrenched, a self-awareness that is so sharp that she’s almost scary. Her matter-of-factness and fortright attitude demand that you listen to what she has to say. And you’d be right to take note because here is a woman who has keen observational skills about the world we live in, documenting the ugliness that surrounds us in the most entertaining way. Fleabag is unforgiving and laugh-out-loud funny. She is also painfully vulnerable, though she’d never admit that.
It’s obvious that all is not quite right with this almost plummily-accented woman who sits majestically tall on a stall before us and that her apparent self-love masks more than a little self-loathing. But why? When it comes, the POW! moment is almost excruciating.
I’m not sure I was supposed to feel much empathy for her but I did and, in the main, I liked the woman Fleabag and I’d willingly go for a drink with her (though I might leave before she did me any real harm). I think that this play aimed to be offensive too but, actually, I enjoyed her crudeness and I loved her terrifying honesty. And, so, right now, it may still be morning but I would probably be wise to go to the fridge, grab that half-empty bottle of wine and sit in stillness to question my own morality!
A powerful, heartfelt performance from Maddie Rice makes Walker-Bridge’s finely-tuned bitter-sweet tale of one-woman-lost very good value indeed.
There’s a Fleabag in all of us.
Fleabag shows at the Brewery Theatre until Saturday 7th February
– Review by Becky Condron