If you love British comedy, 'Fleabag' is a must-watch
There may be no time like the present to find new distractions and dive into the content on streaming services that we've been procrastinating pre-pandemic. British comedy-drama television show “Fleabag,” is written by and stars creative and comic powerhouse Phoebe Waller-Bridge. I recently finished watching the critically acclaimed BBC Three and Amazon show, which was only two seasons long, and was completely taken by its flawed characters and intelligent, candid humor.
The show is based on Waller-Bridge’s 2013 one-woman stage show of the same name and delves into the life of a very complicated yet relatable English woman — the brazen titular character, Fleabag.
She navigates the city of London and honestly unravels her frustrations: familial, personal and a lot of the time, sexual, in a unique mode of narration, by breaking the fourth wall. The New York Times’ literary critic Parul Sehgal accurately describes Fleabag as “anarchy in a tightly belted trench coat with a brightly painted mouth. She is sexually compulsive, self-loathing and intensely lovable.”
The show premiered in 2016 and its second (and final) season was released in 2019. The second season won Outstanding Comedy Series, as well as Outstanding Leading Actress in a Comedy Series and Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series for Waller-Bridge at last year’s Primetime Emmy Awards.
Each of the 12 30-minute-long episodes has a compelling story to tell, pairing sharp and witty jokes with frequent moments of heartbreak and helplessness. Waller-Bridge’s creative storytelling and charismatic performance don’t shy away from blasphemy and social taboos. Additionally, the cast of “Fleabag” is exceptional and creates on-screen love-hate relationships that are brilliant to watch.
Sian Clifford plays Claire, Fleabag’s overachieving older sister. Fleabag and Claire’s strained but affectionate sisterly dynamic plays into the universal stereotypes about younger and older siblings. Academy Awards-winning actress Olivia Colman plays Fleabag’s eccentric godmother and delivers every line with the utmost finesse. Brett Gelman, who plays the unabashed Murray Bauman on “Stranger Things,” plays the unlikeable and unusual character of Martin.
In the second season, the Priest, played by Andrew Scott, won the hearts of viewers worldwide and sparked a heightened interest in British department store Marks & Spencer's canned gin and tonics. Scott’s portrayal of the unnamed Priest inevitably drove fans wild and the character is now more popularly known as the “Hot Priest.”
In light of the widespread socio-economic hardship caused by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the creative team behind “Fleabag” and Amazon have paired up to release “Fleabag (NT Live)” and raise funds for COVID-19 relief through different charities. One-hundred percent of the funds, apart from taxes, raised by Fleabag for Charity go to organizations supporting healthcare workers in the National Health Service in the United Kingdom, as well as the theatre community in the United Kingdom and the United States.
“Fleabag (NT Live)” is a live recording of Waller-Bridge’s performance of her one-woman show on the West End’s National Theatre in London in September 2019 and costs 5 dollars to rent on Amazon Prime.
In a recent interview with Stephen Colbert on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” Waller-Bridge described the theatrical version of Fleabag as much psychologically “darker” than the cheekier character we meet in the TV show. This stage performance alludes to many memorable and filthy moments from the first season of “Fleabag,” but entertains one in a more raw fashion.
This 70-minute long monologue is arguably intense but gives viewers new insights into what makes Waller-Bridge’s beloved and complex character someone to be enamored by. Profane and severe language, jam-packed with emotion and sometimes even hysteria, is a common characteristic of the show but manifests just as well in “Fleabag (NT Live).” Fleabag as a character on-stage and on-screen is far from conventional or perfect, but that’s why you love her.
An entirely different experience from the television show, I would recommend watching this theatrical performance after you’ve spent 6 hours watching the series as it imbues new meaning into what makes a now-iconic television character really tick.
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