‘Fleabag’ Director Breaks Down Pivotal Tate ‘Sexhibition’ Shoot

For a story that revolves around sex, it’s fitting that the final episode of “Fleabag” unspools at a so-called “sexhibition.” There, among such artifacts as a “wall of cocks” and a life-size naked plaster cast of Fleabag’s ex-boyfriend, the hapless Harry, Fleabag’s wicked godmother, played by Olivia Colman, cuts loose. Director Harry Bradbeer says Colman’s character was indulging in a huge ego trip by mounting a “sexhibition” to humiliate Fleabag.
“She’s spent a great deal of Fleabag’s father’s money on this vanity project,” he says. “The sexhibition is a collection of articles which are there to commemorate her sexual life, and the power she has over the Fleabag character,” played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Filming the sequence on location at London’s Tate Modern art gallery during an early summer’s day and night presented Bradbeer with numerous difficulties, but his colleagues all excelled.

Ian Hutchinson
Location Manager
“Ian worked very hard to land the location,” Bradbeer says. “It was the top floor of the Tate Modern overlooking the river Thames with fantastic views of St. Paul’s cathedral, an iconic London landmark. It had natural brightness which cut against the darkness of the story. So the location was a great metaphor for ‘Fleabag’ as a whole.”

Tony Miller
Director of Photography
“Tony’s a genius. A real collaborator, brilliant with actors, and remarkably flexible. He had to shoot at the top of the Tate with very little control over natural light. You can see the sun dropping fast on the last day scene. Tony managed to move like lightning and achieve a fantastic result. The sequence began with Fleabag and Asshole guy coming down the corridor, but the most memorable shots look out through plate glass windows towards St. Paul’s. It’s to Tony’s credit that he can make a scene look as expensive as it did within four days shooting a mixture of day and night-time scenes.”

Jonathan Paul Green
Production Designer
“The wall of cocks was a real tour de force by Jonathan: He had to assemble a collection of dildos which were then cast in clay and arranged on a platform. Phoebe was integral in advising us how she imagined this display. Jonathan then brought his own sense of humor to it.”

David Drake
Sound Mixer
“The room in which the series denouement took place — where Claire, Fleabag’s sister, confronts her with an awful truth — turned out to have two great air-conditioning units which were making a ton of noise. It was awful. Once in the studio, David filtered it out and mixed it brilliantly.”

Gary Dollner
“When you’re making a character piece, you want an editor who knows when not to cut; when you want life to play out as it happens. This worked particularly well with Olivia’s opening speech and in the scene by the river with Asshole Guy. But Gary excelled himself in the denouement with Claire. Here the flashbacks [crucial to ‘Fleabag’] burst into a revelationary climax. For the first time, Fleabag stops talking to the camera and tries to avoid it, triggering a series of traumatic memories. ”

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