Top Scores #13: Isobel Waller-Bridge & Fleabag
Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag is one of British televisions most beloved comedy-dramas. Winning critical acclaim and the public’s hearts, the show is quick-witted, brutally honest, and heartfelt. Phoebe Waller-Bridge writes and plays the female lead, enthralling audiences with her “emotional and sexual honesty”.
In a story of love and loss, we see Fleabag grieve over the death of her best friend, fall in love with a Priest, and, perhaps most notably, develop an affectionate bond with her sister, who is played by Sian Clifford.
Yet this heart-warming tale of sisterhood goes far beyond the fictional plot. Fleabag’s soundtrack was composed by Phoebe’s real life older sister, Isobel Waller-Bridge. This level of familial and emotional understanding is responsible for an electrifying musical narrative that shocks us, outrages us, and draws us in.
In conversation with the Radio Times Isobel Waller-Bridge claims that her favourite part of the scoring process is matching “the personality of the music” with “the personality of the character.” A deep understanding of Fleabag’s character was necessary to develop her soundtrack. The Waller-Bridge sisters knew her sound had to be unapologetic and badass, as well as relatable and likeable.
Isobel Waller-Bridge perfectly captures the essence of Fleabag in the series’ title song, a rebellious, and somewhat sassy heavy metal track. “Even though she does cruel things and she’s mean, we’ve got to like her.” The theme is outspoken, bold and instantly shocking, just like Fleabag.
Now it’s the second series: enter sexy Priest.
When talking to Indiewire Isobel Waller-Bridge claimed that they needed something more than conventional score for the second series’ soundtrack. So, they arrived at choral music: “we thought how about we try something that is vocal and comes from a sacred place.” By using a boys’ choir she created a sense of naivety which gives Fleabag’s character space to evolve. It also reinforced the season’s religious motif, as Fleabag falls hopelessly in love with a Priest.
The series reaches its climax in Episode 5 when we hear a track performed by an adult male choir. In a moment of drama and passion Fleabag and the Priest kiss and decide to have sex. Their relationship matures and so does the score.
Isobel Waller-Bridge soundtracks this exhilarating and thrilling moment with the track “Kyrie”, which translates from Greek as “Our Lord Have Mercy”. She hides cheeky messages and sexual references in the vocals, confessing to Indiewire “there are the occasional words that could be interpreted as filthy words. I think maybe once, maybe twice, we’ve got one of the female body parts.”
Her score is dangerous and outrageous, creating a badass soundtrack for a bold, cheeky and lovable Fleabag. She composes a musical narrative that is full of wit and imagination.
Fleabag is a sort of “love letter” to Isobel says Phoebe; their real life relationship inspired the scenes between fictional Fleabag and Claire.
It is “the dreamiest collaboration”says Isobel, “I honestly can’t tell you how much fun it is to work with your best mate.” Their inmate relationship and united vision for Fleabag gives the show an electric and gripping musical narrative.