A fleabag is something annoying and unpleasant. It’s also the outrageous and irreverent way Fleabag approaches the world and relationships with everyone, either strangers or family members. The author and protagonist Phoebe Waller-Bridge, whose character’s name remains unknown, is a witty, funny, caustic woman in her thirties, gasping in her life in London.
A Two Brothers Pictures production, the show is a fragmentary picture of her everyday life, dealing with economic problems, romantic life, and family commitments with her competitive sister Claire (Sian Clifford), a mean godmother (Olivia Colman), and a father with a lack of affection (Bill Paterson). At the beginning of the story, she tries to cope with the recent loss of her best friend, Boo (Jenny Rainsford), who was Fleabag’s partner in running a Cafe and the only trustworthy person in her life.
Written and played with magnetic charisma by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the series is an adaptation from her one-woman show of the same name, staged at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2013 and winner of the Fringe First Award. Even if the first impression might be a sketches collection, not to forget Waller-Bridge’s past as a stand-up comedian, the complexity of the topics covered in every scene reveals the show’s deepness. Like the comedy-drama Girls, the brilliant dialogues and dry humor allow a practical and direct approach to complex themes like the female body, family relationship, sex addiction, sense of guilt, and love. One more significant element, often pointed out by Waller-Bridge herself, is the relationship with the camera. Fleabag opens a dialogue with the public, talking and glancing at the camera. Like other TV series such as House of Cards, the break of the fourth wall affects the way how the character is received. As a result, she drags the viewers to her side, involving them even in the most embarrassing or private moments.
Waller-Bridge never denied the affinity between her and the protagonist. She challenges the public as the protagonist of Fleabag challenges the people around her. “I always wanted to hit the edge of the character. Once you know what makes someone angry, you can tell a lot about that person,” she said in an interview with The Guardian. After creating Villanelle, the groundbreaking female protagonist of the TV series Killing Eve, she fulfils all expectations. In 2019, for Fleabag’s second season, Phoebe Waller-Bridge won two Emmys® for Leading Actress and Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series.