Molly Whitehouse on Phoebe Waller-Bridge being named President of Fringe Society
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is one of the aspects of the city that makes it such a fun and vibrant place to live. Almost everyone has experienced the flocks of tourists stopping in the middle of the street to take photos, people walking around with plastic cups of cider, the crashing sounds of circus acts and musicians. So it was with true sadness that a lot of us met the news that the 2020 festival had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pressure has risen to make the 2021 festival memorable, and here to take up the baton is none other than Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who has been named the Fringe Society’s new President.
Most everyone has seen or at least heard of the BBC series Fleabag. It is after all, number eight on the Guardian’s list of 100 greatest television series of all time. If you haven’t already binged everything on both Amazon Prime and Netflix since the pandemic, I strongly urge you to give it a look. Not many people are aware, however, that this globally acclaimed series began life on a small stage in Edinburgh in 2013. Waller-Bridge described it herself as “ten minutes of just outrageous naughtiness”, which ultimately won her an Olivier Award. Being able to trace her professional roots back to the cobbled streets of Edinburgh connects her to this city, and will hopefully drive her to see that the largest arts festival in the world doesn’t fade into memory.
So where has she been since 2013? While not immediately visible on the silver screen, she has been flexing her considerable writing talents as head-writer, showrunner and executive producer on the first season of another critically acclaimed television series, Killing Eve. Waller-Bridge’s writing takes a more visceral turn, but still retains the dark humour for which she is now globally renowned. She has co-founded DryWrite Theatre, with friend Vicky Jones. Jones actually casted her in a play, then was fired by the director. Waller-Bridge left with her and they started their own space for fledgling play-wrights.
The eagle-eyed reader will have seen her name attached to the next James Bond instalment, sharing writing credits with notable names like Cary Joji Fukunaga. She was brought on to inject some humour into the script – and as long as she slashes at least two car chases, she will already have improved over the team that worked on Spectre.
A modern renaissance woman, Waller-Bridge found her niche young and has been exploring all aspects of it ever since. She has won numerous awards for her brand of dark humour, both in front of the camera and behind it. However, a small piece of her it would seem still yearns for a small stage in Edinburgh; a feeling that many hope will cause her to champion passionately for the festival that is known for giving so many their first taste of the spotlight.
The chief executive of the Fringe Society clearly shares this feeling, having stated she is “absolutely thrilled to have the fantastic Phoebe in [their] corner”.
Illustration: Olivia Sharma
Image description: a drawing of female actress and writer, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, above a silhouette of Edinburgh.