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Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story at Edinburgh Fringe

I suppose it’s a good thing when I burst out laughing just thinking about how to start a review of this utterly bonkers show. “I am The Queen,” Geri Allen’s, um, Queen, repeatedly states – there are so many videos and voiceovers that impressively all come together, and if there were any technical hitches at the performance I attended I didn’t notice them. It naturally follows God (Zina Badran) makes an appearance, given that Diana (Linus Karp) is, to quote Private Eye making light of the Daily Express’ obsession with her, “still dead”. The Express was even colloquially referred to in some quarters as the ‘Daily Diana’ in the years following her death.

Diana the Untrue and Untold Story. Photo credit Dave Bird.
Diana the Untrue and Untold Story. Photo credit Dave Bird.

Diana tells her story from beyond the grave – well, what did you expect? It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, particularly for those who have an allergy to audience participation. Certain patrons were trusted with lines, and it didn’t matter if they could not or did not project such that they could be clearly heard from the back row: a large screen displayed their words for all to see. The Awkward Productions team get around audience aversion to people saying their real name, or giving a very unimaginative false one, like Classified, Unknown or Anonymous, by merely assigning two of them as ‘Diana’s Dad’ and ‘Diana’s Mum’ respectively.

That everyone knows the plot (or as Karp’s Diana puts it, “What plot?”) is Untrue with a capital U gives everyone free rein to chortle away at an over-the-top and delightfully funny show. Granted, the silliness is cranked up to the max, with deliberately low-quality graphics at one point for comedy effect, and a cardboard cutout of King Charles III, voiced by Joseph Martin, who also has his work cut out as the show’s stage manager, running around making sure things – and participatory audience members – are where they should be.

Camilla Parker Bowles – as she is known in this production – because this version of Diana will not accept her as Queen Consort, is included in the show’s content warning. Quite why this is would be giving away too much, suffice to say it’s an entrance, and a dialogue with Diana, that brings the house down, even if her (Camilla’s) diction is barely decipherable. The show has to be seen to be believed – it’s rather ingenious, for instance, to invite the audience to use the flash function on smartphones to take photographs of Diana. The purpose of the exercise is to simulate the intrusion of the paparazzi, y’see.

Gloriously irreverent, a couple of patrons served as childminders to William and Harry, and a brave soul even put on a corgi mask, got down on all fours, and chased Diana around the stage. An energetic and upbeat show that is as poised and polished as it is anarchic and outrageous.

5 Star Rating

Review by Chris Omaweng

Combining drag, multimedia, audience interaction, puppetry and queer joy, Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story is a unique celebration of the People’s Princess. Told by Diana from Heaven, the show highlights her ground-breaking stances on social and queer issues and allows her to speak her (un)truth in breaking free from the monarchy. It is as hilarious as it is tasteless.

Through bold activism, Diana changed countless lives and drew attention to vulnerable groups in society. She is a symbol of independence – breaking free from a loveless marriage and a suffocating institution – and has become more legend than person. Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story foregrounds her as the powerful, independent woman she wasn’t meant to be.

Writer, Director, Producer Linus Karp (he/him)
Associate Director, Stage Manager Joseph Martin (he/they)
Designer Amy Pitt (she/her)
Choreographer Sam Carlyle (she/her)
Composer, Graphic Designer Wez Maddocks (he/him)
LX Designer Ebbe Rodtborg (he/him)
Photography, Videography Dave Bird (he/him)
Video Editor Daniel Boylett (he/him)
Drag and Makeup Artist Carrot (they/them)
Puppetry Artist Tara Boland (she/her)
Diana Linus Karp (he/him)
The Queen Geri Allen (she/her)
God Zina Badran (she/her)
Prince Charles Joseph Martin (he/they)

Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story
Pleasance Dome (King Dome), Potterow, Edinburgh, EH8 9AL
Wednesday 2nd – Monday 28th August 2023

https://www.edfringe.com/

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