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Published on Saturday, 17 August 2013

5 stars

Underbelly, Cowgate (venue website)
1-12, 14-25 Aug, 9:25pm-10:25pm
Reviewed by Mathilda Gregory

 Recommended for age 14+ only.

Fleabag is an inventive show about – eventually – grief. A funny, compulsive performance by Pheobe Waller-Bridge brings together themes around modern urban femininity, inviting the audience deep into the world of one troubled 20-something.

Fleabag is sad, but she doesn’t know how to articulate that. Still reeling from her friend Boo’s death a year ago, she stumbles, alcohol-lubricated, from one empty sexual encounter to another, trying to make herself feel better the only way she knows how. She’s self-absorbed, selfish and arrogant – but it’s hard not to care about Fleabag, as she reaches out to people around her and finds nothing out there to help.

The trouble is that the tragically self-absorbed Fleabag comes from a tragically self-absorbed family – so her sister and father can’t see beyond their own troubles, to notice how she’s flailing. Her boyfriend can’t cope with her, and the men she propositions can’t cope with her either. She’s smart and funny, she’s beautiful and young… but she ends up all alone. And this isn’t what she’s been led to believe would happen.

Fleabag has absorbed society’s message that her biggest assets are her youth and her beauty, to the point that she feels that is all she is. And when she loses them, as she knows she will one day, she doesn’t know what she will be.

These ideas are all pinned to an incredibly accomplished central performance. Writer and performer Waller-Bridge holds the audience with nothing more than a story, and yet she does it so well it appears effortless. A brilliant, clever show about loneliness, grief and obsession, that manages to be funny in spite of, and because of, its subject matter.

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