The oh-so-tasteful wine bar jazz guitar version of Making Whoopee that ushers in this touring revival of Phoebe Waller-Bridge's solo play gives nary a hint of the psycho-sexual head-rip that follows over the next sixty-five minutes. Nor indeed does the opening scene, in which our eponymous heroine messes up a job interview with an instinctively inappropriate display.
This is just the start, however, of a no-half-measures roller-coaster ride through Fleabag's emotionally scarred world, in which she defines herself through sex, be it through masturbating to online porn or else sleeping with any man that comes her way. Either way, it reminds her she's alive even though she doesn't feel a thing.
As things gradually unravel while she either crushes or else pushes away anyone who attempts to get close to her, beyond Maddie Rice's jolly hockey-sticks delivery and the unfettered ridiculousness of Fleabag's guinea pig café, we see a little girl messed up so much by love that she can't let it into her life anymore.
With Rice taking over from Waller-Bridge's original portrayal of her creation, first seen on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2013, Vicky Jones' co-production for DryWrite and Soho Theatre is an insightful affirmation of how the endless possibilities of on-tap sexual liberation can sometimes numb the senses more than offer anything resembling joy.
Waller-Bridges' writing captures all the casual glibness imbued in this thoroughly modern but actually old-as-the-hills libertine sensibility, with Rice's delivery relishing its comic potential even as she doubles back into the roots of Fleabag's deceptively happy-go-lucky, anything goes world. The two words that Fleabag ends with cover all bases, exactly, one suspects, as she likes it.
The Herald, March 2nd 2015