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Review: Fleabag (NT Live)

After a sold-out run in New York and London, the National Theatre have released their recording of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s hilarious one-woman show, available to rent online to raise money for those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Once again, I am in my pyjamas for this viewing and, this time, with a bowl of popcorn. I have to say, I am a one of those people that huffs and glares at anyone making a single sound when eating during a show – so having the opportunity to eat and not disturb anyone was a treat.

If you fancy eighty minutes of laughter and cringing at Waller-Bridge’s side-splitting, but awfully relatable, story, Fleabag is one to watch. I am not a ‘laugh out loud’ kind of person, but within the first minute of the play, I was doing just this. Fleabag is about a young woman who owns a guinea pig café, that isn’t making enough to pay the rent, has crumbling relationships with friends and family, and is considering the fact she may have a sex addiction…

Waller-Bridge succeeds in creating an intimate experience with the audience with a simple set; just her and her stool. This may also come from the roots of the play, as it was originally performed as a Fringe show at the Edinburgh Festival in 2013. Although it is a one-woman play, you can picture the other characters so clearly because of how specific her changing manner is when impersonating them. She uses recorded voices at times, which allows her to perform true, comical reactions to what’s being said, as if the other person was actually in front of her. Any other performers on stage would be unnecessary. Waller-Bridge does it all.

Even though this story is utterly hilarious, it is also truly heart breaking. When she informs us how her best friend, Boo, died, the audience can see how much the loss has damaged her, even though she may be reluctant to admit it. We can tell by how suddenly she changes the subject which, subsequently, adds humour. Waller-Bridge may be tearing-up one moment, then grumbling and joking around the next. Incredibly, she switches so smoothly that you don’t even realise you’re laughing again.

One added element to enjoying this show now may be its familiarity. Fleabag inspired the extremely popular television series (which is available on iPlayer) and is one of my favourites. With some of the audience knowing the storyline or various catchphrases, Waller-Bridge knows when to play up to this fact; taking slightly longer pauses to build up the anticipation in the audience; a simple, yet successful tactic.

I believe anyone, of any age or gender, will be able to relate to this character in one way or another – so if you fancy having a laugh (enjoying the occasional snort without being embarrassed in front of a packed audience), this play is a must.

For three weeks only, Fleabag is available to rent for a 48-hour period on Soho Theatre On Demand for various prices - and on Amazon Prime from 10 April. All proceeds are going towards charities helping those in need at this time.

Also, if you are able to kindly donate anything to the Fleabag Support Fund, a ‘new emergency support fund for UK based freelancers in the Theatre industry’ (Soho Theatre) – please do so here.

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