Review by Daz Gale
Princess Diana has been the subject of many an adaptation in recent years. Whether it’s how she’s portrayed in The Crown or the ill-fated (and ill-advised?) Broadway musical Diana, there has been no shortage of Princess Di content over the years. But you’ve never seen her like this before.
Following their acclaimed show How To Live A Jellicle Life: Life Lessons From The 2019 Hit Movie Musical Cats, Awkward Productions return with Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story. Recounting Dianas tragically short life, this completely unique show reimagines key events from the years in a way they might have happened (but probably didn’t).
Written by and starring Linus Karp, he becomes Princess Diana from the moment he first effortlessly glides across the stage much to the adoration of his public. Throughout the next speedy hour, Linus as Diana speaks to the audience from Heaven – and who are we to complain about that? Linus commands a stage in this one-Royal show where his fellow cast members are cardboard cut outs (though admittedly less wooden than some performances I’ve seen), puppets and toys.
The remaining roles in the show are played by an unsuspecting audience in a show that relies heavily on audience participation. This allows for spontaneity and, more often than not, hilarity as they take on roles including Diana’s parents, a Corgi and even a landmine. Bringing an immersive element to the show, at one point the audience are encouraged to take their phones out and take photos of Diana to mimic the paparazzi. No matter your feelings on audience participation (I personally slump into my seat if I feel I might be about to be picked) you can’t help but buy into the complete madness of this.
Pre-recorded video skits play out throughout the show including an absolutely glorious turn from Geri Allen as The Queen. It may feel wrong to laugh at the expense of a Monarch who has only just passed away, but this show creates a sense of escapism and a safe space where it is clear that anything goes. When everybody in the room is having a good time and laughing their crowns off, that can’t be such a bad thing!
Where Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story really shines is the writing. If you had seen Linus’ last jellicle show, you would be aware at how mad his shows can be and this furthers that madness to new levels in a show that is brilliantly bonkers. Full of great punchlines and rip-roaring one-liners, this is a show that will simultaneously make you put you head in your hands while wiping away tears of laughter. The largely fictional situations are tied together with some clever throwbacks to real pieces of dialogue such as the genius callback to Dianas iconic line “There were 3 of us in that relationship”.
Speaking of that third wheel, Camilla, or “the slag of death” as she is so affectionately referred to here, gets a scene-stealing moment in what could be the most bonkers thing you ever see in the theatre. Brilliantly played by Joseph Martin, who co-directs the show with Linus, he blurs the boundaries between man and puppet/sex doll hybrid.
In contrast to Linus’ previous show, more care and attention has been paid to this production which feels a lot more slicker with higher production value. From Sam Carlyle’s choreography to Wez Maddocks composition, including songs you will find yourself singing on the way out, this is a show that ticks all the boxes. And we do have to talk about how scarily good Linus looks as Diana – uncanny!
If you are looking for a show that is in good taste and isn’t inappropriate at best and treasonous at worst, this isn’t the show for you. If, however, you don’t mind poking a bit of fun at the Monarchy, certain conspiracy theories and like your Royal shows with a sprinkling of niche pop culture references, you will find yourself howling at Diana. With fantastic characterisation, this riotous bit of fun really is the crown jewel of theatrical comedy. Unashamedly batsh*t crazy, Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story is the decent, non-cringeworthy stage adaptation of Princess Diana’s life this world has been waiting for. Perhaps they could take it to Broadway next?
Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story plays at the Pleasance Theatre in London until 26th November
It then tours the UK until 7th April 2023. Full dates and tickets at linktr.ee/untruediana
Photos by Dave Bird