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Audrey Kupferberg: Fleabag

When I mentioned to a friend of mine from London that I was looking forward to the new season of KILLING EVE, her response was odd.  She said, “Fleabag.”  Up until that moment, I had not heard of the innovative television series with that title.  Both KILLING EVE and FLEABAG are the superb, ground-breaking creations of Phoebe Waller-Bridge, a thirty-three-year-old London-born wunderkind. She not only created the cult series KILLING EVE, but she wrote and produced the shows during season one.  She wrote and co-produced FLEABAG—and she stars in the title role.

A graduate of RADA, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, Waller-Bridge began her career in theater, movies, and television barely more than a decade ago.  Today, due to her success, she is being credited for making it easier for women to get jobs writing in the entertainment business.  Just this month, it was announced that Waller-Bridge has been hired by the team producing the next James Bond feature to punch up the script. 

FLEABAG, which can be found on Amazon Prime, is a very edgy, comedy-drama about a quirky, clever, often unpleasant woman from North London who flits from one sex partner to the next. She often spends time with a sister with whom she seemingly cannot have a relaxed relationship.  She owns a café that is going under. Her best friend is dead – killed in a multiple bicycle and auto accident that wasn’t quite an accident. 

The first season of six half-hour episodes aired on BBC Three in 2016. Two seasons are available. The roots of FLEABAG go back to a ten-minute stand-up storytelling night of several years ago which evolved into her one-woman play at the Edinburgh Festival in 2013.

The humor in FLEABAG is anti-social, sometimes sexual in nature, often mean-spirited.  The main characters are not the sort that most folks would seek out as buddies.  Warning: The sex scenes may be too explicit and off-putting for many viewers. Still, there is enough pathos in the series of plots to keep viewers emotionally tied to all that is going on.  To help this feeling of connection between Waller-Bridge’s main character and the audience, she occasionally breaks the fourth wall to secure our attention. 

The episodes of FLEABAG put the emphasis on the dysfunction of families and the disappointment of short-lived sex partners.  At the same time, there is a sub-theme of the preposterous undertones of modern society. The show boasts a cast that any television production would crave.  One standout member is Olivia Colman, who just won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role.  Colman is outrageous yet totally believable as a rather nasty godmother to Fleabag.  Shades of Cinderella!  This character is so fully dimensional that she could have her own series.

It is clear that Phoebe Waller-Bridge is someone to watch. FLEABAG has a rare 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  As the high-flying Waller-Bridge also has proven with KILLING EVE, she will challenge her audiences to accept the prickly, disturbing aspects of her creations.  And she is brilliant at creating worlds that entertain while flabbergasting viewers! 

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