Theatre has never felt more varied, with something truly for everyone. Gone are the days of it being an elitist pastime with exciting fringe shows now touring the country. One of the most exciting independent theatre makers is Awkward Productions, the brainchild of Linus Karp and Joseph Martin. I caught up with Linus to find out more about their current show, during a sold out run in Manchester.
‘Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story’ is a one person show staring Linus as the people’s princess. Linus describes it as;
“A loving, stupid and ridiculous celebrations of Diana’s life. It gives her the narrative she perhaps should have had, rather than what actually happened. It incorporates drag, multimedia, puppetry, music, dance audience participation and a lot of her activities.”
You might wonder how you can tell such things with one character. In truth you can’t. That is where the audience comes in, playing all sorts of supporting characters. Having seen the show, I can confirm this is both bold and brilliant. Explaining how he changed a lot in COVID as a theatre maker, missing that joint experience;
“Its not like watching a film where you sit back. We very much want the audience to be part of the show and create something special together. Every show is unique and you can feel the liveness of it. It was also the fact I’d written something with so many characters and I didn’t want to multirole, so it was about finding creative ways. Be that multimedia, puppetry or audience participation. Selfishly it makes it more fun for me!”
“It was quite nerve racking at first, because you never know what an audience is going to be like. To see how people step up every time an how the rest of your audience get behind them. It’s so fun to see them realise moments together with the audience.”
It was a clown show that helped him see just how far he could push things if you get the audience on board! Linus made clear that although this is pushed quite far, any participation is always done with love and never to catch anyone out. With so much of the show being developed through improvisation, the show has been developed since its first show in London last November;
“For the first week, we tweaked things every day and since then we’ve changed and added things. I suppose we have been quite lucky in that the monarchy has given us so much material. We’ve had Harry releasing his book, with iconic quotes coming from that. And obviously the coronation with Charles adding even more! It has enabled us to keep the show fresh. During the summer before going to the Edinburgh Fringe, we added music and upped the choreography. We always make the show the best it can be!”
Multimedia is used to brilliant effect with Operation Mincemeat star Geri Allen starring as Queen Elizabeth II, who interacts with the audience. In these videos she looks uncannily like Olivia Colemans interpretation of the Queen on The Crown;
“Some people even ask after if it was, or if it has been done by AI. When we were going to do the show, we knew we wanted her as the queen. She had just had a baby at the time, so we went to her house so that she could be with the baby at same time. We have some hilarious photos of her as the queen breast feeding!”
The show itself is far from just simple comedy. As a queer theatre company, this angle is an important one for Awkward Productions;
“Even though the work we do is stupid and ridiculous, I also want to have things to say. As a queer company, we want to incorporate that into our work, especially now with the climate in the uk as it is; with hate crimes rising against queer people. Diana did such bold activism around AIDS/HIV at a time when many others wouldn’t. We would be doing a disservice to her legacy if we didn’t incorporate that into the show.”
Diana herself is someone Linus had adoration for, but realised he didn’t know as much as he thought once he started doing more research. However, he explains that you don’t need that level of knowledge to unjust the show. There are of course plenty of references littered throughout, including costuming which focuses on some of her most iconic looks.
“We both love Diana. I wanted to make jokes but never wanted it to feel disrespectful. I think its important even though we go far, the audience can feel safe without ever feeling uncomfortable.”
The next show by Awkward Productions will be ‘Gwyneth Goes Skiing’, Linus explained;
“We take a look at the infamous court case of Gwyneth Paltrow versus Terry Sanderson. The very ridiculous ski incident accident, where one skid into the other, but which one was it? Our version is set at Christmas and runs at the Pleasance Theatre this December for two weeks. We thought Diana was a stupid show, but this is a lot stupider!”
For the first time, both Linus and Joseph will star together as the leads. Asking how this dynamic will work, he continued;
“I think It's really fun. If we had done really serious plays, it might have been different working together, but this is very joyous. We always have a really fun time creating together. It will be really interesting and exciting doing a show where we both on stage together for the whole time. I love solo work, but I also love the collaborative aspect.”
The final Diana show of 2023 will be on at the iconic Clapham Grand on Wednesday 06 December. The following Wednesday will mark the first performance of ‘Gwyneth Goes Skiing’ which will run at the Pleasance Theatre until Saturday 23 December . See link below for booking information for both.