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Phoebe Waller-Bridge: This screenshot of the first Fleabag review shows how far the writer and actress has come

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Lauren Geall
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Phoebe Waller-Bridge

After Phoebe Waller-Bridge and the Fleabag team took home four Emmys at Sunday night’s ceremony, one Twitter user unearthed the first reaction the then one woman show received – and the contrast is incredible.     

By now, we’ve probably all seen that iconic image of Phoebe Waller-Bridge at one of the Emmys after parties. Laid back in a fancy chair, surrounded by her awards and a cigarette in hand, the actress and writer couldn’t look any more at home. 

That’s probably because Fleabag took home four Emmys on Sunday after taking America by storm, with two exclusively for Waller-Bridge herself. But the show hasn’t always known such success.

Because back in the day, not everyone was so impressed with Fleabag. In 2013, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s hit show was little but a low-budget one-woman play at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival which came to be reviewed by mainstream critics simply because of word-of-mouth recommendations.

And while many of the reviews were keen to say Waller-Bridge herself was an extraordinary talent, many of them didn’t have the same feelings towards her now beloved protagonist, Fleabag. 

Fleabag
Phoebe Waller-Bridge in season two of the BBC production of Fleabag.

And while many of the reviews were keen to say Waller-Bridge herself was an extraordinary talent, many of them didn’t have the same feelings towards her now beloved protagonist, Fleabag. 

The review in question is one from The Telegraph in 2013, which calls the character of Fleabag “distinctly unlikeable” – which the writer acknowledges, is to a certain extent a clever assertion of the right for a woman to be unlikeable in the first place. Nevertheless, the review then goes on to say that Fleabag’s monologue “grows wearisome” and that the setting will be alienating for those who live outside “the hipster enclaves of east London” – ironic seeing as the show is now a massive success in America.     

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Emmys 2019: Phoebe Waller-Bridge and the Fleabag team officially had the time of their lives at the awards ceremony

The moral of the story? Don’t give up. If Waller-Bridge had chosen to let the words of her early reviewers get her down, we might be living in a Fleabag-empty Hot Priest-less world right now, and I think we can all agree that would be a massive shame.

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Lauren Geall

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