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Review: Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story (King's Head Theatre)

Review by Daz Gale

 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

The people’s princess and Queen of hearts is back, and this time he’s playing Princess Diana. Fresh from the worldwide attention that Awkward Productions most recent show, Gwyneth Goes Skiing, gained, Linus Karp is back donning his best revenge dress in the return of Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story. Though it got rave reviews in its first London run, not only is this new version bigger and better, but it also promises to introduce us to the Diana multiverse. Would this production end up being a right Royal laugh or something that was better left dead?


From the unique brains that brought us Gwyneth Goes Skiing and How To Live A Jellicle Life, Awkward Productions (Linus Karp and Joseph Martin) created Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story premiered in 2022, immediately garnering a cult following, especially among the gays and theys of London. It shows audiences a different side to Princess Diana who tells her story from Heaven as she fights demonic monsters (Camilla) and attempts to rewrite her story giving the iconic figure the happy ending she was so cruelly robbed of. Obviously fictional and as nuts as you would imagine from an Awkward Productions show – though if you thought this was mad in 2022, just wait for the 2024 iteration.

 

Written and co-directed by Linus Karp, Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story may seem like a stupid show on paper, and to an extent, it is… but proudly so. However, it takes intelligence to write such fantastic comedy, and Karp’s writing shines through in a story that takes the ridiculous factor and amps it up to a level so absurd, it should be illegal. Karp and Martin know their audience and their shows have become full of niche humour that has amassed a cult following that keeps growing. With jokes that never miss and a camp, over-the-top tongue-in-cheek approach, this is a show that plants a smile on your face from the opening moment and keeps it there throughout. Where else would you find an audience screaming at Diana to turn around so she doesn’t go in a tunnel?  A couple of more serious moments about LGBTIA+ rights and the current government prove there is more than an inconsequential silliness to this story.



Since it was last seen in London, Diana has had a bit of tweaking and revitalising – the result is a show even better than the first time around. New bits include a brand new God (Zina Badran), new props, and the inclusion of the Diana multiverse. The star of the infamous Diana: The Musical (Think of it as the Broadway equivalent of Opening Night) Jeanna De Waal interacts with Linus over video in a sequence so funny, I couldn’t catch my breath from laughing. Full of references and lyrics from that sensational (for all the wrong reasons) musical, it did the impossible in finally finding a good use for those lyrics. It really was an inspired touch, elevating the show further.

 

Princess Diana feels like the role Linus Karp was born to play (as was Gwyneth Paltrow and sad Oompa Loompa for that matter) but Diana feels like his crowning glory, With the delivery of dialogue and facial expressions, Karp delivers a comedic and frankly brilliant performance that will have you howling with laughter throughout, while shouting “YASS QUEEN”. Karp’s ability as a performer was further demonstrated by improvised moments be it interacting with the audience, technical difficulties, or even a rogue glass breaking in the audience.

 


While this is very much a one-Princess-show, there were three people in this production with co-producer and co-director Joseph Martin flawlessly embodying the spirits of both Camilla Parker-Bowles and Paddington Bear and a cardboard cut-out of Prince (now King, fact fans) Charles delivering a far less wooden and two-dimensional performance than some others I have seen in the West End in recent months. Operation Mincemeat star Geri Allen also gets a fantastic role via video as The Queen. The rest of the cast changes every night…

 

A key factor in this production is the audience interaction. While Gwyneth had a handful of audience members assist, Diana recruits as many as possible with unsuspecting audience members having to play a range of roles including Diana’s parents, teachers, gay fans (not too much of a stretch), and even a landmine. This creates an unpredictable unique element to each show, and no shortage of laughs. On the night I went, the crowd was exceptional with a real joyous atmosphere spreading throughout the soon-to-be stars I sat amongst.

 


Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story can only be described as batsh*t crazy and that is the highest compliment I can give. Awkward Productions have sculpted their own distinctive brand of humour which is going from strength to strength Whereas this show blew me away the first time around, this iteration takes it to a whole new level of genius. If you are looking for a fantastic night out, a break from this ever-terrifying reality we live in, and a good laugh, you’ll struggle to find a show that fits the bill more than this. A truly wonderful and hilarious show, Diana really is as Di-conic as it gets.

 

Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story plays at the King's Head Theatre in London until 5th May. Tickets from www.kingsheadtheatre.com

 

Photos by Dave Bird

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