Fleabag is the story of a 20-something-year-old modern single woman struggling to deal with the death of her best friend and a failing business, and trapped in a mindset where sex, humour and crudity are her only coping mechanisms.
“She’s a kind of everywoman in many ways but with less of a filter than your ordinary woman,” lead actress Maddie Rice tells InDaily.
“She is incredibly frank and really funny when she talks about sex and her attitudes towards other people – she just doesn’t hold back.”
Written and originally played by award-winning British playwright Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag was first introduced to audiences at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2013, before it was adapted and extended into a three-hour ensemble television comedy for BBC Three, later sold to Amazon Video.
Rice now plays Fleabag on stage while Waller-Bridge works on a second TV series.
“Phoebe’s definitely an incredibly difficult act to follow,” Rice says.
“The character is just so well written that I think any good actress could do her own version of this character because it’s just so complex and there’s many different colours to it.
“I remember she [Waller-Bridge] came to see it the first time that I played the role and she just said there were loads of lines that she didn’t realise were funny until I did them and then vice-versa; there are bits that I do sad and she does happy.”
Rice believes the constant switch between comedy and tragedy makes the character relatable.
“It’s so rare to see a woman talking so openly and honestly about sex, life and relationships.
“It’s comforting to hear someone talk about things that you think are your most dark, secretive thoughts, and then to have people laugh and feel for her.
“Although it’s hilariously funny, it’s also very sad as well.”
Armed with just a microphone and wooden stool on stage, Rice says the script carries the storyline in the absence of a complex set.
“It’s almost like stand-up in that all you have is a microphone and you don’t need anything else because you’re taken on these joke journeys that require nothing else but words.
“Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s writing goes at such a pace, it’s so shocking and you don’t know what to expect.
“There’s just not a moment to think, ‘Oh, where are the rest of the people, where’s the props?’ because she’s just well ahead of you as a writer.”
Rice says the lives show provides a “completely different experience” to the TV adaptation.
“The stage show has a lot of similarities but there are characters that appear in the TV show but aren’t in the stage show, and there’s characters in the stage show that don’t appear on the TV show.
“It’s definitely worth seeing both.”
Fleabag will make its Fringe debut at The Garden of Unearthly Delights on February 27, with performances continuing until March 18.