Soho Theatre, London – until 16 December 2016
“You look stressed.’I’m successful'” … Phoebe Waller-Bridge would have every reason to look stressed as she has certainly been keeping busy – writing and starring in two TV shows this year alone – and she also point to extraordinary levels of success too, as the entire run of this return of Fleabag to the Soho Theatre sold out in less than 10 minutes. Riding high on its very well-received television adaptation from the summer, its a canny piece of programming that has paid real dividends.
In some ways, I shouldn’t have gone back. Not being the hugest fan of the original production due to my issues with Waller-Bridge not giving me the kind of eye contact that other monologues have given me so effectively in that very same studio, I was then pleasantly surprised by how brilliantly the TV show worked. So I didn’t need to return to the stage show, but a friend had a spare ticket at the last minute and I’m rarely one to turn down a freebie.
And…I kind of felt the same about it second time round. Waller-Bridge is undoubtedly an accomplished performer, and I’d forgotten just how inventively and impressively she inhabits all the supporting characters in Fleabag’s life. But there’s still a kind of disarming distance – maybe its a deliberate character choice, part of her innate defence mechanism – and so I still never got that sense of connection with the show that so many others seem to get.