Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story ★★★★

Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story is a very different theatrical tribute to the late Princess of Wales

Many people this week have commented on how much Elizabeth Debicki looks like the late Princess of Wales in the newly-release Season 5 of The Crown. However, Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story goes one better.

You might think how can a Swedish twink in a crinkled wedding dress in a downstairs North London theatre channel the People’s Princess? Well The Recs is here to tell you that Linus Karp is packing BDE – Big Diana Energy.

All images by Dave Bird

Speaking from Heaven (the celestial realm, not the gay nightclub), Lady Di narrates the events of her life with the help of puppets, video messages and an assortment of characters from her life who luckily happen to be sitting in the audience.

We witness Diana’s birth – to be strictly accurate, we witness her conception courtesy of Diana’s Mum and Diana’s Dad. We are there for Lady Di’s fateful first meeting with Prince Charles (whatever “Prince Charles” means). And we wonder at the beauty of Lady Di in her wedding dress (the show’s wardrobe budget is less Emanuels and more H Samuels) with a train that stretches all the way across the Downstairs Theatre. Uncanny!

The Queen appears on cleverly-interactive video, played superbly by Geri Allen channeling her best Olivia Colman. Prince Charles, voiced brilliantly by Joseph Martin, is rendered as a life-sized cardboard cut-out. A perfect metaphor for his rigidity. In a manifestly silly show, there’s something strangely poignant about Diana pleading with an unresponsive cardboard cut-out Prince. And of course, Diana’s arch nemesis, “the slag of death” herself, Camilla makes her terrifying presence felt. The show is packed with humour: excellent visual gags, groan-worthy punchlines and slyly self-aware jokes. “There was three of us in this solo show” particularly tickled our fancy. As did Linus’ baffled look in response to the line “back to the plot”. 

Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story is profoundly silly and not as tasteless as you might imagine it. Karp is careful not to go too dark and wisely steers away from potentially upsetting subject matter. The show is a warm, inventive tribute to Diana. Not only does she get a happy ending free from the Royal Family, it posits the notion of the good she could continue to do had she lived.

Given that Diana was a trailblazing LGBT ally, it seems right that bold queer activism is celebrated throughout the show. Likewise the Princess’s status as a fashion icon is duly noted with Linus serving four classic Diana looks. As is the signature style of Awkward Productions, there is a chaotic energy to the piece. There’s something of a throw-everything-at-it-and-see-what-sticks approach to their theatre-making. What it lacks in slickness, it more than makes up for in creativity. 

As a new show, elements still need tightening up. An unLadylike cat fight goes on far too long. Elsewhere, it seems strange that there is no mention of Kate and Meghan, both of whom could be ripe for Diana’s updated world view. And lastly, if you ever wondered what Diana’s singing voice was like, if Linus’ interpretation is anything to go by, it’s something like a cat. Sadly not the Jellicle variety either. Perhaps lip-syncing is the way to go for the big finale?

But these are quibbles compared to the many laugh out loud moments of the show. Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story is both hilarious and warm-hearted. A cult smash in the making. We loved it. If you are a Diana fan, you will love it. And we are certain Diana herself would love it. Take that, Debicki!

Linus is the perfect Queen of our Hearts and we regally bestow a right-royal ★★★★ (4 stars)

on Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story (…whatever “4 stars” means)

Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story Tour

Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story tour includes:

8 – 19 Nov | The Pleasance Theatre, London

23 – 24 Nov | Arts at the Old Fire Station, Oxford

1 – 4 Dec | Alma Tavern and Theatre, Bristol

3 – 4 Feb | Theatre @41 York

10 – 11 Feb | Nonsuch Studios, Nottingham

15 – 18 Feb | Town & Gown, Cambridge

24 – 25 Feb | Old Joint Stock, Birmingham

28 Feb – 1 Mar | Old Gym Theatre, Acting Coach Scotland, Glasgow

2 – 4 Mar | The Brewers, Manchester

16 Mar | The Acorn, Penzance

25 Mar | Lighthouse, Poole

31 Mar – 1 Apr | Accidental Theatre, Belfast

6 Apr | Two Brewers, London

7 Apr | The Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich

Book Now