pre-show choice of “Easy Listening” music notwithstanding, Phoebe
Rice’s performance is endearing, feisty, and just edgy enough to keep things real; indeed, except for a range of off-stage sound effects and voices, it’s just her to entice and entertain us for the duration.
Rice’s journey over the show’s hour-and-a-bit running time is something of a stream-of-consciousness affair, starting and ending at a job interview which has just gone into a sexually confused tailspin. It’s fair to say that Fleabag isn’t in a particularly good place at the moment: her boyfriend has “comitted”one of his break ups (although the audience is left wondering if this time it’s the real deal), she has increasingly problematic relationships with her sister and father, while her best friend “Boo”– with whom she ran a guinea-pig-themed cafe – had accidentally killed herself.
Clearly, this young woman – 26 years old, running out of money and direction –has a lot to cope with: her choice, though, is to “cope” by having sex. And alcohol. And sex – something, significantly, that she admits she enjoys more for “the performance” aspects rather than what it actually feels like, either physically or emotionally.
Rice’s performance is endearing, feisty, and just edgy enough to keep things real; indeed, except for a range of off-stage sound effects and voices, it’s just her to entice and entertain us for the duration. The script she has to work with is sharp, though; it’s content to assume that its audiences will get what’s going on even if the young woman herself does not. Director Vicky Jones’minimal staging and lighting helps, ensuring nothing distractions from a character who is flawed and hurt by the world and yet still sympathetic.
That a young woman would want a man “to fuck her, not make love”, and have sex with someone she didn’t even fancy that much, might still surprise some people. That this “modern woman”is damaged goods at the moment is obvious, but the strength of the play is that, by its end, we care much more about her than we are shocked.