Phoebe recently revived the one-woman show which would eventually lead to the TV phenomenon that was Fleabag, launching her career around the globe, with journalists and a few select celebs invited to a performance earlier this week.
The critics have now had their say on the West End production, and it seems they’ve all been charmed by the writer and star’s comic creation all over again.
At worst, a few have suggested that the Fleabag theatre show might be a little predictable for those who’ve seen and loved the TV series it inspired (although this is true for people who’ve seen the film versions of plenty of West End shows), while others have pointed out a few subtle differences that make the theatre show stand up on its own.
Here’s a selection of what the reviews are saying...
“If anything, this original version is spikier and more uncompromising [than the TV series] – as sharp as cheap white wine. There are zinging one-liners that provoke delightedly outraged laughter... this Fleabag watches even more porn, masturbates even more spectacularly, drinks even [more] disastrously, tries to shag even more inappropriate people.”
The Stage 5/5
“This was a fitting beginning for a show that goes to some murky places and delights in probing the wet, fleshy terrain between sexual empowerment and abasement. All the elements are there that would make it succeed on screen, but the stage show is darker and bleaker than the television series it spawned. It’s less hopeful in many ways, but still very funny.”
Evening Standard 4/5
“I feared that after two TV series and the mania over PWB’s involvement in Killing Eve and the next Bond movie we might have hit Fleabag fatigue. But no. This is the distilled essence of the phenomenon.
“At heart, this is storytelling in a beautifully pure form: just Waller-Bridge, her rolling eyes and expressive half-sneer, a chair, a couple of voice-overs and some distressing guinea pig sound effects.”
The Guardian 5/5
“Waller-Bridge says aloud the things that are normally kept hidden and has created a woman who is both caustic about men and avid for sex. But, although the show is often funny, I laughed less than I expected. Ultimately, it is less stand-up comedy than sit-down tragedy in that it is a study in female desperation.”
The Times 4/5
“Her timing is perfect and the punchlines are good but, still, it does feel just a little, er, old hat.
“You cannot help but notice that you are watching Fleabag Mark 1. Where’s Olivia Colman? Or that sexy priest? Or, indeed, why not mix in a little Villanelle from her latest show Killing Eve? How about some Bond?
″‘We’ve had a ball,’ she said in an interview before the New York run, ‘but it’s time to move on.’ But not without one more standing ovation, though.”
What’s On Stage 5/5
“Everything that would go on to become part of the television series is there, but in chrysalis form, before it expanded into a beautiful butterfly… it is Waller Bridge’s writing and performance that create Fleabag’s world. Words land with precise comic weight, but also with a relish for their sound, beat and emotion.”
“Each character and situation is exactly encapsulated and what you get on stage – which you didn’t on TV – is her vivid mimicry of the people she meets.”
It’s not just the critics who were won over, though, with a number of stars in attendance joining in the standing ovation at the end of Phoebe’s performance.
Also in attendance was Sandra Oh – the star of another of Phoebe’s TV creations, Killing Eve – as well as fellow British comedian London Hughes, who shared her thoughts on Twitter afterwards.
Fleabag is being performed at the Wyndam’s Theatre in London until 14 September. It will also be shown at select cinemas on 12 September.