I caught the NT Live airing of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s return to the West End with Fleabag, a run she has declared will be her last of the play, which has dominated since its 2013 debut. Unlike the TV series of the same name (and subject), the stage play is told only by her, in direct address, whilst sitting on a tall chair. From this perch, she contorts and cajoles, taking on the personas and judgements of people in her life, as she relays her messy and complicated life to her listener.
The nuance in the work is astounding. The tiniest gesture, tilt of the head, appears effortless and fresh and yet is so highly choreographed. Waller-Bridge is an engaging performer, able to hold her audience with the raise of an eyebrow. The physical work is surprising in its subtlety - she appears to not move at all and then suddenly be completely contorted and hanging off the chair, or standing, or completely embodying her sister or rat face or any of the amazing characters she brings to life.
And the sound. THE SOUND. Some of the most delicately curated, perfectly timed I have heard, ever.
What was interesting, attending this in NT live after her years of tours, and after the wild success of the TV show on BBC and subsequently Prime, that it felt absent of too much surprise (aside from the scenes that differ from the TV show). The audience were there to revel rather than to learn. While this was fun, I would love to enjoy it in a room where everyone, myself included, hasn’t an inkling of the depths of this woman’s soul.