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Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story, 4 Stars

Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story
Clapham Grand
6th Dec 2023

“Labelled “the most unhinged piece of theatre in existence” (Broadway Baby) and told by Diana from Heaven, Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story foregrounds this iconic royal as the powerful, independent woman she wasn’t meant to be, uniquely combining drag, multimedia, audience interaction, puppetry and queer joy to highlight Diana’s ground-breaking stances on social and queer issues and allowing her to speak her (un)truth in breaking free from the monarchy.”

Review by Daniel Preciado, 4 Stars

On Wednesday, a fringe darling expanded to a grander stage  – the Clapham Grand, to be exact. In front of the biggest audience they’ve performed for yet, the crew of Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story stretched its zany material to fit a considerably larger venue size and, in doing so, a show that in smaller fringe venues felt like an over-the-top satire became a funny – but not hilarious – show too small for the stage it was in.Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story is essentially a one-person show led by a brilliantly committed performance by one of the show’s creators Linus Karp. As a fictional version of the late Princess of Wales, Karp is fantastic, playing a Diana fueled by her posthumous status as an icon. Although his Diana embodies a demure shyness in her voice and physicality, she still knows (and loves) that she’s a gay icon. As she goes on a rags-to-riches story (or, rather, a rich-to-richer story), Karp gives us a character that is easy to like and, most importantly, to root for. Through Karp, Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story shines not only as a riotous comedy but also as a satirical commentary on posthumous celebrity worship. The show is silly and unhinged in a gleefully liberating way, playing with theatrical conventions and making it their own. One of the show’s highlights is the audience interaction, in which individual members of the audience (or, at times, the audience as a whole) play characters with their lines projected on the stage. Be it portraying Diana’s parents, her gay fans, or even one of Queen Elizabeth’s corgis, the audience is intimately brought into the wild world of the play, furthering the idea that Diana could be our BFF and consistently increasing the eccentric quirkiness of the story. One of my favorite moments was when Diana rushed through the audience as a projected sign told the audience to take pictures of her (flash encouraged) and act as the paparazzi that hounded the princess. It’s an unconventional way of portraying a serious event, but one that effectively makes the audience connect to both the story and the way it’s told.Karp’s performance, coupled with how involved the audience feels, makes the play feel so playful, but, unfortunately, the show lost that closeness to the material in a venue as big as the Clapham Grand. The joyful kindred spirit created among the audience through our proximity to the action was lost here, with the intimacy that heightened the funny to hilarity sadly lost. It’s impossible not to compare it to its previous incarnations, as the only things that changed in its transition to the Clapham Grand were the venue and the audience. The staging, which in fringe venues felt humourously exaggerated, here felt dully bare, with the stage mostly lit with a general white wash, changing only a few times throughout the show. The audience interaction was awkward, with certain bits of audience interactions lost based on where you were seated. What’s worse were the empty chunks of time as either Diana or crew members struggled to reach an audience member in the huge venue, thus causing the pacing to falter and the show to feel longer than it was.The question of script versus venue was in my head throughout the piece. It is a fun, unique show put together by a committed team, but it was made abundantly clear throughout the evening that it is a show that benefits from venues smaller than the Clapham Grand – at least with its current staging. With certain tweaks to the direction, it could be successful in such a space, but what played on Wednesday, although far from bad, was not quite there yet. Nonetheless, although it felt a tad long and a tad messy, I’m sure no person present left not talking about it.

Photo credit: Dave Bird

The Untold and Untrue Story
Date Wednesday 6th December 2023 Time 7.30pm
Location Clapham Grand, Clapham Junction, 21-25 St John’s Hill, London, SW11 1TT
How to Get There The nearest rail/overground station is Clapham Junction.

Writer, Director, Producer Linus Karp (he/him)
Co-Director, Puppeteer, 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)
Additional LX Design James Appleby (he/him)
Photography, Videography Dave Bird (he/him)
Video Editor Daniel Boylett (he/him)
Drag and Makeup Artist Carrot (they/them)
Puppetry Consultant Tara Boland (she/her)
Diana Linus Karp (he/him)
Charles, Camilla Joseph Martin (he/they)
The Queen Geri Allen (she/her)
God Zina Badran (she/her)
Notes Ages 18+, includes flashing lights, audience participation, strong language and Camilla Parker Bowles
Social handle @SoozUK, @awkwardprods, #untruediana