Words by Emma Ferraro
Fleabag (originally written/played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge but performed at the Fringe by Maddie Rice) is a 20-something year old living in London. She’s dealing with the loss of her best friend and her failing business the only way she knows how: sex and her crude sense of humour.
Fleabag is performed via monologue: an hour of insightful commentary into Fleabag’s experiences, relationships, and personal issues. Maddie delivers Fleabag’s life with admirable confidence and familiarity — she makes you fall in love with Fleabag just as easily as she’ll make you recoil.
Fleabag is complex and layered. She’s salacious and oversexed — she discusses her sex life unashamedly but admits that it’s the only way she feels as though she’s worth something to someone else. She’s brutally honest — she says things that she knows she shouldn’t, but you’ll laugh, because you’ve thought it, but never dared to say it out loud, or so publicly. But Fleabag is fundamentally isolated — the people in her life come and go and she’s fending for herself.
There’s something to Fleabag that you can relate to and identify with — perhaps it’s because she’s a little bit of every woman you know: she’s your sister, your friend, your co-worker, you. Her humour and charm is not enough to compensate for, or justify her mistakes, but she makes you forget them, even for a second. Her vulnerability, her shame, her poor decisions are something you can emphasise with and understand, even if you don’t agree with them. Her experiences are meaningful because they all connect to one another and affect one another — maybe in a different way to how your own have played out, but you just get it — you get her and why she does what she does. The character is so well rounded and authentic, that it seems as though she’s real. Maybe she is.
Maddie Rice plays Fleabag in a way that is animated and immersive — you become so engrossed in the character and her story. She balances humour and tragedy perfectly and naturally. She tells the story as if it’s truly her own and you believe that yes, she is Fleabag. When the story ends, Maddie and Fleabag leave you wanting more. You want to know how her story continues: where does Fleabag go next, what does she decide, how does she move forward? That’s true talent: to keep the audience wondering even after the story ends.
4 and a half out of five stars.
Fleabag is the original stage comedy behind Phoebe Waller Bridge’s BBC/Amazon original series. Fleabag is showing at The Garden of Unearthly Delights until March 18th, 2018.