The legacy of Princess Diana is celebrated through the medium of drag, comedy, audience interaction, and song in Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story at the Pleasance Dome this Edinburgh Festival Fringe. However, this is not quite Diana’s legacy as you know it with writer, director, and star Linus Karp reimagining The People’s Princess’s story into a high camp queer spectacle.
Chronicling Diana Spencer’s meeting with Prince Charles to her breaking free from the monarchy, Linus twists Diana’s fate and focuses on her achievements after surviving an attempt on her life. Celebrating Diana as a gay icon, landmine destroyer, fashionista, and survivor, Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story pays homage to the beloved royal through a delightfully wicked comic lens.
As the audience file into the packed Pleasance Dome – King Dome, several are given small cards with an assigned role. The rest of us are encouraged to identify our own Diana inspired name with a generator on a on-stage multimedia board. The audience are an integral part of the show with Linus utilising them in roles of nannies, corgis, and Diana’s parents. Particularly quirky highlights see audience members take on the roles of landmines and gay fans. Lines appear on a multimedia screen for willing participants to read, with these non-actors impressively adding to the delightfully avant-garde atmosphere and bringing a fresh, unpredictable quality to the show.
Linus excels at crafting a truly uniquely off-kilter atmosphere to Diana, doing so through a range of creative approaches. A multimedia screen adds a range of delightfully kitsch graphics, whilst musical numbers (including a catchy banger D-I-A-N-A exploring Diana’s role as a gay icon) and video clips help further expand the scope of the production. Clips featuring Geri Allen as Queen Elizabeth II (soundtracked to 2009 scandipop gem The Queen from Velvet) bring some camp fun, whilst a cardboard cut out of the then Prince Charles is manoeuvred around the stage by associate director/stage manager Joseph Martin. Martin also is responsible for bringing the piece’s villain to life – with a grotesque puppet of Camilla Parker-Bowles thrust around the stage whilst monstrous sound effects are blasted.
The star of the production is undeniably Linus Karp’s magnetic turn as Lady Di. The performer encapsulates Diana’s mannerisms and vocal stylings with an impressive finesse, and when placed on this kitsch, high camp canvas, sparks moments of true hilarity. Showcasing a fast-paced and intelligent grasp on the appeal of Diana and her legacy, Linus is able to pay tribute to the star through a gleeful unhinged queer lens. Diana’s infamous quotes (“There were three of us in this marriage…”) sit alongside a joyous love of pop culture, including a spin on Come Dine With Me’s “You won Jane…” in this punky, rebellious comic outing.
Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story is gleeful absurdist comedy at its finest. Linus loving examines the camp around the legacy of Diana’s life and takes it to joyously absurd new heights.
Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story runs Aug 12-14, 17-20, 22-28. Get tickets here.