Whilst the TV series might have three Emmy Awards, a BAFTA and plenty of critical acclaim, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s one-woman show Fleabag truly excels on stage.
Stage performances might be few and far between right now but, thanks to Amazon Prime, we are able to enjoy this show from the comfort of our own homes.
Unlike its television follow-up, the play is minimalistic as a simple red chair occupies the stage and—instead of a cast of wacky but lovable characters—the only person that the audience sees is Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag (accompanied by the occasional audio fluttering through speakers). Though the banter between characters gives the televised version of Fleabag its charm, there is still plenty of humour in this version through Waller-Bridge’s expressions, gestures and impressions of familiar characters (her best impression being the pursed lipped ‘Rodent’, who she meets on the train).
The two-series BBC show might be known for Waller-Bridge’s breaking of the fourth wall and her smirks to the camera and, in turn, the viewer; but this version directly addresses the audience in a way that is conversational and confident yet vulnerable and personal. The stories range from funny (see: the opening monologue) to dark and poignant as Fleabag details her best friend Boo’s suicide and the reason behind it, something that is mentioned in the show but given more depth and heart in this version.
The dark, witty humour of the series is still present in the theatrical version. The stage production is more balanced, as the audience is treated to light-hearted, humorous accounts juxtaposed with darker stories surrounding death, grief, and suicide. Whilst the TV series had laughs aplenty, the audience is mostly silent as they take in the monologues being played out before them.
Watching the TV programme, I couldn’t help but feel that Fleabag is so far removed from me or anyone I know. After watching the stage performance, though, I realise that she shares some similarities to everyone. Like Fleabag, we are all just trying to make our way in the world, trying to be good people and get on with whatever individual circumstances we find ourselves in.
The stage production might be missing a certain Hot Priest but it makes up for it by being a witty, wonderful depiction of twenty-first-century womanhood. It could’ve been grander, with more thrills attached, but it isn’t. It’s simple, it’s minimal but sometimes keeping it simple is the best way to go. This is certainly true of the stage production of this much loved one-woman show.
Fleabag is available to watch as part of the Great British Theatre Series 1 on Amazon Prime Video.
Words by Jen Rose.
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