Fleabag is my personal pick of the Melbourne International Comedy Fest 2018. I’d been trying to see this one-woman play by English actress, writer, playwright, and director Phoebe Waller-Bridge well before its Australian debut this year, having come across the 2016 BBC adaptation easily made it as one of my all-time favourite TV shows.
London-based actress Maddie Rice perfectly inhabits the story of a lonely 26-year-old woman (only known by her nickname Fleabag) struggling with running a failing guinea-pig themed café and dealing with the recent death of her best and only friend Boo. It’s easy to dislike her. Morally bankrupt, selfish, apathetic; her sense of worth tied to her sexual attractiveness and promiscuity. She is the type to readily admit that she would trade five years of her lifespan for the perfect body – during a feminist seminar. Or ignore her on-and-off-again boyfriend to watch porn on her laptop, in bed next to him.
Sitting on a bar stool mid-stage, Maddie spends the next hour telling snippets of Fleabag’s recent life. A job interview that goes hilariously wrong, drunken encounters with her bewildered dad, and her strained relationship with her much prettier and successful sister. There’s plenty to laugh out loud too if you are not too bothered by crude and raucous dialogue. The writing and delivery are delightful, with a barrage of clever one-liners.
At its heart, what carries the play is not the superficial humour, this is a story of loss and despair. From encounter to encounter, there is a narrative thread involving her best friend that reveals Fleabag to be a character that is deserving of sympathy and perhaps redemption. For all the laughter, this fantastic play delivers a moving story that is ultimately full of sorrow and a glimmer of hope; and absolutely worthy of all the critical acclaim it has garnered.
– Christian G.
Christian is an international man of mystery; lover of books, cats, and the performing arts; moonlighting as a finance professional by day.
Disclosure: The Plus Ones were invited guests of TS Publicity
Image credit: TS Publicity