Fleabag is the treatise on sex and self-indulgence Helen Fielding never dared put in the mouth of Bridget Jones. With no prospect of a Mark Darcy to rescue her, Waller-Bridge’s Single White Female finds her self-determination through online porn, indiscriminate sex and binge drinking … This is a woman who the tabloid advice columns would say has stopped loving herself and feels unable to love anyone else either, but who only feels momentarily alive during sex.

The graphic freshness with which this is delivered is brilliant: the imagery in the script has rawness but also accuracy, and even the audience-catches-its-breath moments like the bloody handprint on the bedroom wall during a menstrual threesome are only slightly overdesigned.

If it were merely a clever piece of acting, she’d deserve some sort of award, but as Waller-Bridge is also the author of the piece – and not in a sneery, casual, improvising stand-up comedic way but with a dramatic arc and incidental characters and the credibility which makes this a fully-realised stage play, it is a triumph.

Some of the episodes in the character’s life sound less impressive when written down – the accidental misunderstanding of the ‘Guinea Pig Café’ which she runs (it is a café which has a pet guinea-pig on the counter, not one which serves them either baked or as customers) sounds twee but works because it becomes a pivot for a later more serious incident.

We start with Fleabag’s boyfriend leaving because she doesn’t pay him the attention he needs – but also because she was masturbating to anal porn beside him while he slept. It’s this adoption of modern male behaviour patterns by a female that makes audience members first guffaw and then consider. As the kind of woman who rebels against anything which might be termed ‘inappropriate’, you could really get to like her.

A certain poshness has become Waller-Bridge’s stock-in-trade. Her double-barrelled name always reminds me of the Fascinating Aida sketch where Dillie Keane tries to recall the annoying girl she was at school with in endlessly wrong permutations till she finally remembers it’s ‘Camilla Parker-Bowles’.

How she builds hockey-sticks enthusiasm for a topic in her monologue before undermining it with a quiet put-down is reminiscent of the brilliant technique of the late Joyce Grenfell, except nowhere near so polite. In her filthy narratives and genital-scratching sexual voraciousness she’s deliberately adopting the persona of a violently onanistic but actually quite girlish public schoolboy. In fact, if you close your eyes, she sounds like Jack Whitehall.

The piece has imperfections, but I still wanted to give it five stars because it’s so entirely original and well-delivered. And it pushes a slightly disgusting envelope.

It will make you laugh. It may make you reflect on your own habitual behaviours. You will want to talk about it afterwards. Isn’t that the essence and the everything contemporary theatre should be about? Don’t miss it.

Remote GoatOriginally published on RemoteGoat.com