Fleabag – Smock Alley, Dublin

Writer: Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Directors: Emily Murray and Hannah O’Reilly
Reviewer: David Doyle


Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag made quite an impact when it debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2013 winning a host of awards and critical acclaim. It’s a frank, often shocking, and always hilarious look at the life of a sexually liberated young woman living in London. In the form of a monologue dealing with everything from hook-ups to guinea pig deaths, the apparent humour of the piece masks a crushing loneliness central to modern life.

Amid the discussions surrounding Waking The Feminists, such a contemporary and powerful text from an emerging female British writer is a welcome thing to see on a Dublin stage. Bristling with a contemporary outlook, and a raw energy this production is equipped with a script that should make it a hit but sadly the production misses the mark.

Monologue pieces are notoriously difficult to stage. They require deft direction and strong performance to keep the audience engaged throughout. The central performance by Hannah O’Reilly is a well-crafted one but too often the piece lags without innovative direction. A strong, if slightly too long, opening sequence shows innovation and the promise of the piece but as it moves along that imagination wanes and the piece feels stiff and repetitive.

A large problem with the show is in design. The set comprises of a single black chair centre stage, leaving the conjuring of different locations down to the sound and lighting. In particular, the lighting is an issue in the piece. Spaces are never clearly defined by it, and it all too often relies on a shift of colour to demonstrate things. As the central character sits alone in her apartment late at night watching porn following the death of her best friend, the estrangement of her family, and rejection by her lovers, the lights wash out the whole stage. There is no sense of the walls closing in around her, of her world narrowing, and of her abject loneliness. As a result, the darker elements of the piece are lost, and so the piece relies on a humour that is not enough to sustain it for 70 minutes.

Amid the historic surrounds of the Boys School, the piece, which is so contemporary, feels lost. It never truly manages to invoke the city surrounds of its story, and so much of the importance of the text is lost. O’Reilly’s performance is strong and the humour of the piece elicits laughter from the audience but beneath that the production feels underdeveloped.

Runs until 13 December 2015 | Image: Contributed

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