Blatantly honest and outspoken, Fleabag opens a window into life and experience as a solitary woman all alone in a big city, tackling depression with comedy, jokes and lots of meaningless sex. Originally a one woman show written and performed by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, then translated into a BBC Three series starring Phoebe herself, the theatre show is now back on the road with Maddie Rice starring as the hilariously unabashed titular character: Fleabag.
As the show in its different forms has been around since 2013, Maddie had to find a way to make her personification and performance as Fleabag unique and interesting to people who have already seen an adaption of Fleabag. To make it unique, Maddie said: “I made it my own version straight away, just by the difference in sense of humour and experience I just bring out the bits that I have completely made my own. It’s obviously the same character as when Phoebe did it, but it’s my reading of it, so it’s almost like if you saw a new James Bond film with a different actor, if you like the character it’s still good.”
Becoming Fleabag in front of an audience for the first time was quite an experience for Maddie. A one woman show from the perspective of an openly over-sexed woman with only a stool as a prop and recorded voices and audience responses the only thing to interact with. “The first time I did it there was a few bits of text where I found it really hard to not to blush, because in my own life when I’m talking about masturbating or sexual positions or pornography I would probably blush and be a bit embarrassed.
“But Fleabag is completely unabashed so I had to get used to talking about it and I realised that the more straight and serious I can be about it, the funnier it is for the audience because they can’t believe you just said that. It’s the audience responses that make the play and it is written so cleverly just to surprise and shock you into laughter.”
The humour in the piece is used to hide all the tragedy Fleabag has been through and the emotions she is dealing with, but the seed of the story is a quite depressing one. The best way to describe the characters mentality is ‘if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry’, which in combination with the show’s very real and honest topics make for the show to portray a different side of women than normally seen in the media.
Maddie pointed out the importance of that, saying: “Women are human beings, we all have problems and do bad things and don’t always act like the beautiful, polite, yielding stickwomen we’re stereotyped as. It’s really inspiring to hear people talk about the things that Fleabag talks about, how we can react against the stereotype of having to be prudish and embarrassed about sex rather than having it and talking about it.”
Fleabag isn’t just an incredibly funny theatre show, it also has a strong message for its audience: “It’s important to show this extreme side, of Fleabag feeling in control and like she can she can have sex with anyone, but as soon as men don’t find her attractive or look at her in a certain way she feels like she won’t get things and can’t be happy. That shouldn’t be the case and I think it’s really important to show how unhappy it can make you to try to fit into stereotypes. It’s especially relevant now, with younger generations having to judge each other every day on how they look online and how many followers they have on “social media.”
Fleabag comes to The Old Market on 5-9 Jun. For more information and tickets, click here.