Phoebe Waller-Bridge used to run scratch nights of new writing.
Each time, she’d provide the writers with a new brief, like “make the audience fall in love with a character in under five minutes”. That night, the audience were each given heart-shaped helium balloons, which they released at the moment they clicked with the character on stage.
If she’d done this with Fleabag, you wouldn’t have been able to see for balloons.
Her stratospheric rise to fame started with a one-woman show at the Edinburgh Fringe; an unfalteringly honest and gripping monologue borne out of her obsession with audiences and the ability to sucker-punch laughter into raw emotion in 60 seconds. Thanks to her distinctive asides to camera, it translated brilliantly to TV; she won herself millions more fans; and left everyone heartbroken when she decided not to write a third series.
And last autumn, she performed one final run of the original play at the Wyndham’s Theatre. Obviously, tickets sold out immediately. So the National Theatre recorded one of those performances as part of their NT Live programme, which they then screened to plush cinemas across the country.
Good thing they did.
Because now, you can watch that recording from your own home. It’s streamable from the Soho Theatre’s On Demand service (where you can also find recordings of dozens of other top-notch comedians including Nish Kumar, Mae Martin and Shappi Khorsandi).
All you have to do is log on, and make a small donation to their charity pot. The money collected will then be distributed across four charities, supporting NHS workers, actors and theatre professionals (who have all been put out of work due to lockdown), and vulnerable members of society. Donations start at £4, and – if you’re feeling really generous – go up to £250.
Buy yourself a ticket. It can count as your next feminist lecture.
NOTE: Fleabag is available to stream online now, from £4. To find out more, and make your donation, head HERE.
Main image: Tristram Kenton