“That’s why they put rubbers onto pencils”.
In the two previous occasions I came across writing company DryWrite, the results were fresh, engaging and a little bit subversive. Fleabag, the company’s new offering written and performed by Phoebe Waller-Bridge and directed by Vicky Jones, comes with a spate of awards from the Edinburgh Fringe so the expectations are heightened. And thankfully not squandered.
Fleabag is the monologue of a woman. It’s bookended by a job interview and in between we learn about affairs, casual sex, friendships and guinea pigs. She is very funny, often unlikeable, frequently deluded. The sex is often misjudged but never judgemental. Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s performance is unsparing but compulsively watchable. Pencils have rubbers because people make mistakes, and there is a devastating effect when you realise you can’t put to right all the mistakes you have made.
One of the triumphs of the play is the vividness of characters not on stage. The friend who got killed by mistake emerges as Fleabag’s better half, the sister who could do the right thing and break away but she doesn’t. We are all not so much trapped as confused. The solution is in front of our eyes but no one has the presence of mind for it.
If there is one fault with Fleabag, it’s its strength as well: its vivid simplicity creates a powerful link with the audience but it doesn’t allow for a transcendent revelatory effect. A small price to pay.