Fleabag & The Nether

Fleabag and The Nether: Shelley Theatre, Bournemouth (Friday 6th April)

This fascinating double bill finds  Bournemouth based Arena Theatre tackling two startlingly original one-act plays that champion the work of female playwrights.

The first work is widely known -  Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag, originally a hit at the  Edinburgh Fringe five years ago, it went on to become an award-winning TV comedy and has since successfully returned to the professional theatre. Arena was given special permission by the author herself to  stage this production which is produced by Paul Nelson.

It finds Emma Torrens in the title role relating disastrous tales from her chaotic and awkward life as a twenty something living in 21st century London. Full of humour, it also explores the pressures facing young women in a society where porn can be downloaded onto your phone and casual sex is increasingly the norm.  There’s a fine performance from Torrens  ably supported by Charlotte Peach, Daniel Withey and Ignatius Harling in a variety of roles.

The second play, The Nether, delves into an altogether darker subject. Written by Jennifer Haley and set sometime in the near future, it finds the worst excesses of the internet out of control with virtual fantasy worlds providing, or so it seems, a playground where any desire can be fulfilled without consequence.

Special mention must go to Daniel Withey who, having just played a man with a tiny mouth who is guinea pig phobic in Fleabag (Can you imagine auditioning for that role?) is transformed into the smoothly evil and manipulative Sims, creator of a sickening cyberworld of sexual exploitation in The Nether.

Directed by Grae Westgate with strong performances from Rachael Cheeseman, Chad Echakowitz, Ancor Figueras Ramos and Sally Beames, this is not a comfortable play to watch but raises important questions about moral responsibility and the nature of good and evil.

*Arena Theatre performs Fleabag and The Nether at the Shelley again tonight (Saturday 7th April)

Jeremy Miles

© Jeremy Miles 2022