It seems like five minutes ago that Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag was show-of-the-moment at this venue. But now – how quickly the wheel of parody turns! – it’s Liz Kingsman’s One-Woman Show, which topples that idol and makes most merry in the wreckage. Fleabag established a template for messed-up, sexually candid, ultimately redemptive female narratives, which conquered all before it – until now, when it meets its match in Kingsman’s whip-smart and delightful mickey-take. Now watch as One-Woman Show does for her career what its target once did for Waller-Bridge.
If it does, the irony won’t be lost on Kingsman. But then, not much is lost on Kingsman, who misses no opportunity here to pull the rug from under solo-show artifice, make mincemeat of liberated-woman cliches and spoof the look-at-me egotism that – occasionally – animates one-person theatre. In a show that never stops commentating on its own performance, Kingsman plays “a woman stumbling through her 20s in a fiercely honest, darkly comic way”. In the present, in flashback, or in a muddle between the two, this wildfowl charity worker ricochets between her generic office job, calamitous sex life and convenient friend (“you’ve got to talk to me – it’s literally the only reason I’m here!”).
There’s a wicked pleasure to be had in the sharpness (sacrilege, even) of Kingsman’s satire, which critiques the feminist credentials of a genre dependent on cute female ineptitude and unfulfilling sex. And yet, as the show careers to its redemptive finale, Kingsman plays a joker that absolves her of matricide. Or does it? By this stage, meta layer has been heaped upon meta layer, and the line blurred between latter-day Fleabag learning to accept her mixed-up self and real-world creator calculating the professional fallout if tonight’s gig goes wrong.
Did I mention that the show is also laugh-out-loud silly, as our heroine romances a plant and jeopardises an entire bird population? Too bad for Kingsman it never got the chance to launch on the Edinburgh fringe, where a Comedy award would have been a shoo-in. But the best award for any comic is irrepressible laughter, which will greet One-Woman Show night after night, and which it richly deserves.
At Soho theatre, London, until 27 October.