Phoebe Waller-Bridge Says Fleabag Debut at Fringe Festival Changed Her Life

Phoebe Waller-Bridge has said that making her hit show Fleabag debut at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival changed her life and career in a new documentary that explores the history of the phenomenon.

The BBC program titled The Fringe, Fame and Me describes how a small Scottish arts festival that began 75 years ago became a national institution that nurtured many talents.

Among the shows that first found their footing at the festival was Weller-Bridge’s Fleabag, which she wrote and performed as a one-woman show in 2013.


Phoebe Waller-Bridge first performed Fleabag as a one-woman show in Edinburgh in 2013. (Matt Humphrey / The Corner Shop)

In the new documentary, she recalled how she completed the script on the train to Edinburgh.

On the show, she played an angry and confused young woman struggling to navigate life in London, which she feels resonates particularly well with the cultural temperature of the time.

She said: “2013 was a real f**k you, feminist, jolt of angry energy because that year had a slew of enthusiasts talking about feminism in a way they didn’t before.

“And I think that’s one of the reasons Fleabag really got hit. There were a lot of people who could really relate to it.”

Waller-Bridge said that Edinburgh felt right for Fleabag in the sense that it seems “there are no adults” and that “you are allowed to say what you really wanted to say before anyone else can say it.” get in the way.” ,

The show won the Fringe First Award and has hosted BAFTA, Emmy and Golden Globe awards after being adapted into a BBC sitcom.

Reflecting on the effect the Fringe had on her, she said: “These four weeks could change your life and change your career forever, which is what happened to me. I mean, after Edinburgh Never looked back.”

Waller-Bridge is now president of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, which he said is a “wonderful thing” because he thinks he owes it so much.

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David Schwimmer (Matt Krasick / PA)

Also stars who revealed how the festival influenced their careers in the documentary included Friends star David Schwimmer.

The actor recalled how he produced Alice in Wonderland which he directed for Fringe during his twenties while studying at Northwestern University in Chicago.

Speaking about the impact it had on his acting career, he said: “It was a life-changing experience and it also proved to us that we can do this.

“We had a very satisfying run on the fringe and we came back and said ‘let’s do it professionally’.”


Emma Thompson (Ian West / PA)

Acting stars Stephen Fry and Dame Emma Thompson also reflected on their time at the ceremony when they were part of the Cambridge University theatrical group Footlights.

Fry admitted: “If I didn’t have opportunities to meet Emma and Hugh (Laurie) and go to Edinburgh and do the kind of show we did, I don’t think I couldn’t make it.”

While Oscar winner Dame Emma said: “There are no negative memories for me. Edinburgh was just such joy, lots of late nights and some broken hearts, just the things of life. ,

Comedian Eddie Izzard also offered the other side of the celebration as he reflected on the challenges he faced to find it.

Stand-Up explained that some thought she had become an overnight success, but it had taken her 10 years to realize that the festival had worked for her.

She said: “I lost many battles in Edinburgh but I won the war.”

The documentary also stars Bill Bailey, Michael Palin, Frankie Boyle, Stephen Kay Amos and Miriam Margoyles among famous faces who speak about how their time at the Fringe affected their careers.

The Fringe, Fame and Me will air on BBC Scotland on 8 August and on BBC Two and iPlayer on 10 August.