Grabbing a welcome glass of merlot while I awkwardly waited for the doors to open gave me time to peruse the programme and familiarise myself with the Playwright(Phoebe Waller-Bridge), production team and cast.
Even though it’s essentially a one person show starring Sophie Hambleton (who currently stars in TV3’s Westside) there’s a list of ‘Voices’ in the cast – that’s interesting...
Entering the theatre to the solid anthem of Beyonce’s ‘Run the World (Girls)’ and a wall sized image of Amy Winehouse staring out across the set stamped an impression upon me immediately. This was going to be a powerful woman’s show delivered by one woman. I feared for my husband (who had accompanied me) as I anticipated a vulgar, in your face, man-hating seventy minutes.
As Sophie Hambleton exploded on to the stage as a drunken Fleabag I’m bracing myself for what is going to follow. She’s rough, she’s drunk, she’s shabby and totally out of control. It’s funny, in that way that people do stupid, funny stuff when they’ve been drinking, and probably none of us could be very judgmental about that.
Sophie goes on to interact with a number of people by the way of ‘voices’ mentioned above. It’s a surprisingly effective and relaxing way to explore her relationships with others, it doesn’t come across as weird at all, quite natural actually.
Whilst there is no nudity in the show, Fleabag takes the audience on an intimate very personal journey through her life which reveals her emotionally naked, in all the raw beauty that there is with such vulnerability.
As if single-handedly holding an audience’s attention for seventy minutes wouldn’t be enough, the set (designed by Daniel Williams) required a lot of energy from Sophie. From sitting on the toilet to throwing herself on a beanbag on the ground to climbing the stairs to her bedroom/office and back down the ladder again, well – I was impressed at the energy this chick had to keep going.
Despite the fact of the grittiness and brutally honest sexual references delivered in a matter of fact style, I never once felt threatened by the content. It was funny, tragic, and serious over and over again. The rapid changes in scene were accompanied by rapid but genuine changes in emotion. I felt love for Fleabag, because what Sophie brought to life was the true and yearning spirit inside everybody, the one that just wants to be loved but is scared and damaged.
Together with a clever production team, Sophie has delivered this complex, unloved character with the experienced and loving hands of a midwife, to an audience ready to go through a tough labour. She brings humanity to the inhuman, and love to the unloved. She is tough, delicate, raw and realistic.
Fleabag was a show thoroughly enjoyed and consumed by the audience, and guess what? My husband came out unscathed...