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Review | Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story | Hope Mill Theatre | 04/10/2023

If you dominated the headlines in 1997, there is a strong possibility a show in your honour is playing in Greater Manchester this week. Having already seen ‘TONY! The Tony Blair Rock Opera’ at The Lowry, I headed to Hope Mill Theatre to watch ‘Diana: The Untold & Untrue Story’.

As the title suggests, this is a highly satirical and unique interpretation of Diana’s story. With a lot of creative licence, the show is delivered with buckets of absurdity and lashings of dark humour. I naïvely thought the most outrageous portrayal of Diana was by Marc Wooton in BBC’s ‘High Spirits with Shirley Ghostman’, but Awkward Productions have well and truly taken that title!

An opening voiceover explains that due to the indisposition of Kristen Stewart, Emma Corrin and Elizabeth Debicki, that Linus Karp will be playing the role of Diana. Karp not only stars as Diana in this one person show, but has written this hysterical queer love letter to the people’s princess. Videos are used extensively throughout the performance, with Operation Mincemeat star Geri Allen playing a version of the queen who looks uncannily like Olivia Coleman’s interpretation in The Crown.

As for the other characters, they are played by the audience themselves! Whilst I would usually cower at the mere thought of audience participation, it was done brilliantly. With all participation consensual, cards with character names are given to willing volunteers before the performance begins. Playing such roles as ‘gay fan 2’ and ‘Diana’s parents’ they speak the lines projected onto the screen. They not only interact with Diana but also with perfectly timed video clips. Unlike a lot of audience participation, it is done with love and those involved are always part of the joke. Even those not having a staring role get the chance to feel involved when Diana meets the paparazzi!

Leave your royal decorum at the door, the humour here is most certainly on the darker side. Leaning very much into shock factor whilst pushing the boundaries, the audience absolutely lapped up every second. Whilst not a show for staunch royalists, it is for fans of Diana herself with hilarious references made to some of her most memorable quotes. Not only are her words incorporated into the 70-minute show, but also interpretations of some of her most iconic outfits… Let’s just say new meaning has been given to her infamous revenge dress!

Looking through a queer lens we are reminded of the incredible work Diana did during the AIDS epidemic, her status as a fashion icon and her warm accepting nature for all. ‘Diana: The Untold & Untrue Story’ is full of heart and it is clear that Karp has studied Diana, with his comedic portrayal capturing her entirely.

It would be all too easy for this sort of show to lack substance, but powerful parallels are drawn between the threats faced now by the queer community and those in the 80s. Not only do you leave the theatre having had a chaotically comical night out, you leave it appreciating the battles that are still being faced. This felt all too timely with transphobic legislation being discussed at a certain conference earlier this week within a few miles of the theatre.

This eccentric and unhinged show is absolutely what we need right now. With sprinklings of hilarious original music and inventive use of props, alongside scene stealing audience participation, Diana is potentially the most fun you could have at the theatre!

'Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story' is on at Hope Mill Theatre until Sunday 8 October 2023. See below for booking information

Note: My ticket was gifted. Irrespective of whether a show is gifted or bought, I always ensure that my reviews are fair and based on my honest opinion alone.


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