You could say that Phoebe Waller Bridge's path TO GLORY began with a beautiful gesture. It was on a project where Phoebe invited playwright and director Vicki Jones to work. In the process, Vicki was fired - after learning about this at a general meeting, Phoebe immediately got up and left. “Boldly,” they threw in her back. “It would be bolder to stay,” she replied. So says Phoebe herself: she gives the impression of a person who always leaves behind herself - not without a share of self-irony - the last word.
All jokes, but it was this sacrifice of a career in the name of sisterhood and friendship with Vicki that largely determined the future fate of Phoebe. Together, they started the DryWrite writing laboratory, where young playwrights practiced anonymous writing sessions on a given topic: they came, wrote, immediately put their text, immediately received feedback and went out drinking with new friends. DryWrite ("Dry writing" - "Sounds like something from the realm of STIs" - jokes Phoebe) became the very workshop in which everything was formed that after a few years will bring her awards, nominations and endless viewership.
It will be Vicki who will persuade Phoebe to participate in the stand-up night at the London Storytelling Festival. Phoebe - a professional actress - has never been involved in stand-up, but she decided to meet fear and wrote the text on behalf of the one she always wanted to see herself as: a daring, brave girl, with a deadly cynical sense of humor and an unfading hole in her soul. From these ten minutes was born the theatrical production "Fleabag", which later became the series of the same name, which fell in love with viewers already far beyond the UK. Shooting in 2016, Waller-Bridge has gone from theater to the James Bond franchise. Here's how she did it.
Text: Alexandra Khazina
A pretty owner of a tiny cafe, decorated with all kinds of images of guinea pigs, a lonely Londoner, leading an independent life of a young and restless woman, a nameless beauty without a penny. She sleeps with whoever she wants and when she wants, is not ashamed of her own libido and rushes between an infantile father and his passive-aggressive bride, manic-depressive sister, her manipulative husband, not worried about his alcoholism, and an endless line of men. But there is something else - the tragedy that eats up from the inside, associated with the death of Boo's best friend, because of which flashbacks of the past, happy life appear every now and then, when there was someone to share joys and sorrows with. Now the place of the lost interlocutor is taken by the viewer - there is simply no fourth wall, and an address to the audience a la Frank Underwood is like Fleabag's conversation with herself.
Fleabag became Waller-Bridge's signature card, which wrote, directed and starred in it. “To sing truthful songs, you have to sing selflessly,” notes one of the heroines in another series by the scriptwriter “Roommates”. This is the secret of "Fleabag": behind comedy gags, hilarious characters and sharp comments hides a sincere attempt to talk about what is customary to keep silent. The boyfriend leaves Fleabag twice: when he finds her masturbating in Barack Obama's video interview and when he finds her requests to search for porn on the computer - and behind the absurdity of this situation lies a conversation about a woman's right to sexual fantasies. The main dilemma for Waller-Bridge is how to practice, what you preach, or, in principle, how to be a modern woman. When at a feminist conference a speaker asks the question "Are you ready to trade five years of your life for a perfect body?" in the hall, two hands are quickly raised - the main character and her sister.
The first season of "Fleabag" was released in 2016, a pivotal year for Phoebe, and the second - in 2019.“This is a love story,” says Waller-Bridge from the screen, wiping his bruised nose in front of the mirror in front of the mirror. Having gained relative emotional stability and no longer trying to fill the hole in his heart with promiscuous sex, Fleabag suddenly falls in love - comic (he is a priest) and tragic (really a priest). The role of the sexy man in the cassock was written specifically for Andrew Scott, who, like Waller-Bridge, is a masterful balancing act between comedy and drama. But thirsting for love and trying to achieve it, the heroine is still trying to understand the main thing: what it means to be a woman.
In the third episode, Christine Scott-Thomas briefly appears in the series as Belinda - a powerful and elegant winner of the Woman of the Year business award, who over a glass of martini swears a “humiliating” award that drives women into the ghetto, talks for a long time about the fact that women are born with a pain inside, and eventually blesses Fleabag to return to the party and flirt with someone there. In response, she kisses her in full admiration, because Belinda embodies everything that the main character seeks: both the solution to the equation "feminism vs reality", and the sanctions on her own hedonism.
The Roommates (originally Crashing, not to be confused with the Pete Holmes series) was Phoebe's first major television project that caused her absolute confusion - it took almost a year to write the pilot. Much of this show was later refined in Fleabag, where Waller-Bridge also directed and starred. The series "Roommates" looks like the younger brother of "Fleabag": there are still twenty-five, everyone around is a little less conscious and the narrative is a little more awkward. Nevertheless, he is also curious on his own - it was not for nothing that Netflix bought it.
Lulu - bright, relaxed and irresponsible - comes to surprise childhood friend Anthony and bursts into his life in the midst of a party. He lives in a squat in a former hospital with his squeezed girlfriend Kate and colorful neighbors: the bully Sam, who is not ready to admit his homosexuality, the warlike artist Melody, the awkward Indian gay Fred and others. As expected along the way, it turns out that the relationship between Lulu and Anthony has always been something more than just friendship, but an endless vaudeville with alcohol and parties in former operating rooms without doors and windows, attempts to find money for rent from a rich aunt and Sam's war for Fred's attention will greatly distract from the main romantic line.
Already here, Waller-Bridge is practicing writing the main character: Lulu sings songs about lesbian porn, burps loudly and generally behaves as uninhibited as Fleabag. Yes, and the romantic line itself at some point will be wrapped in a loop, so again it turns out that the girls are the best. Chained Kate will try to realize her own body and will go through the kind of evolution that Anthony is not capable of - finding himself between two women, he suddenly turns out to be a weak and weak-willed boy who asks his best and stronger friend: "What should I do now?"
"Killing Eve" is Phoebe's first big project, in which she did not play herself. The detective series tells about MI6's pursuit of the hired killer Villanelle, she is Oksana - luxurious, elusive and showing all the signs of psychopathy. The investigation is being conducted by agent Eva Polastri, a tired woman in a happy marriage to the chairman of the local bridge club. Villanelle cold-bloodedly performs one task after another, during the breaks, bohemian burning through life in an apartment in the center of Paris, but one day something goes wrong: Oksana turns out to be obsessed with the idea of killing in principle, and Polastri - with the idea of finding a killer.
"Killing Eve" does not always tickle your nerves with suspense: after all, the cards as a whole are revealed from the very first episode and the further development of events only represents a layer of conspiracy theories and cat and mouse in all possible directions.True, in some places the heart still beats more often: for example, Oksana's line at the beginning of the second season is a dizzying homage to "Psycho" Hitchcock and "Misery" by Rob Reiner and Stephen King. But the main thing is that "Killing Eve" is a shape-shifter, where women come to the fore: it is easier for a woman to kill, because she is harder to suspect, and only a woman detective can investigate the crimes of a woman-killer. Hence, there are many witty plot twists and comedy gags in the most unexpected moments. The criminal cannot be stopped because the phrase “I need to hand over the tampon” becomes her pass. It turns out to untie the tongue of a Russian spy not by torture, but by a mother's embrace. But the main thing is that the relationship between Polastri and Oksana turns into a relationship of mutual admiration and attraction - and this fascination of a woman with a woman in itself becomes the subject of research.
It's funny that the antagonist here is the Russian special services, where unpleasant men in jackets, employees of either the KGB, or the mafia, or all at once run everything. A great reason to feel sympathy for the beautiful killer, who at a certain moment will begin to pile on her and her enemies, and everyone who gets in the way of her interests.
In April 2019, Waller-Bridge was invited to work on the draft of the James Bond script. They called her as a "specialist in women's affairs" - to breathe life and feminist humor into those characters who most often remained just a misogynistic reflection of the protagonist. “The film has to evolve and it is important that it starts treating women appropriately. He [Bond] does not have to do this. He has to stay true to his character,”says Phoebe. It's hard to believe that the heroine Lea Seydoux will suddenly begin to ironically comment on the last night with Bond, but something in the spirit of Waller Bridge is clearly awaiting us.
PHOTOS: Channel 4, Amazon Prime Video, Amazon Studios, BBC