DIANA: THE UNTOLD AND UNTRUE STORY – REVIEW – EDINBURGH FRINGE

The People’s Princess gets a superficial fangirl treatment in this tidy, camp celebration of her ‘iconic’ status.

It’s a great idea for a show, combining a well-known royal scandal with nostalgia and a lightweight drag performance. Linus Karp plays Lady Spencer with poise and pursed lips, retelling her classic narrative of a fairytale wedding gone horribly wrong and leaning in, especially to the antagonism of Camilla and the Queen.

Most of the story relates to the most frequently told and theorised aspects of Diana’s life, repeating the motif of ‘there are three people in this relationship’ a few too many times. Anyone who’s seen any of the many docs, movies or The Crown will know these beats already, and for a show that presents as the ‘untold and untrue’ story, there could definitely have been more liberty taken with her life. The primary changes come in stylistic choices, e.g. to present Camilla as a ragdoll demon from Hell, but the truly invented story arc at the end feels like an addendum. There are also a number of false endings that drag the playing time out, making the piece longer than necessary.

The audience interaction does well to bring the story to life, but the actual delivery of Diana as a character is quite one note and a bit slow. At a festival where drag, character comedy, and standup are pushed to such exciting limits, the style adopted here feels polite. Its appeal to familiarity and the cosiness of the Queen, Paddington, and ‘the gays’ will appeal to many audiences wanting an undemanding romp through the Diana theme park. However, for those looking for something original, political, and contemporary, this production might feel somewhat thin on the ground.

Some of the set pieces are quite simplistic in their humour, with the Charles cutout and evil Camilla doll providing opportunities for play but only going so far, and the jokes often feel a little predictable. The video sequences with the Queen slow the pace down further, and the technical polish precludes the possibility of much spontaneity or liveness in these sections. The overall message of queer positivity is warming, honing in on Diana’s allyship, but the piece doesn’t really enquire into the complexities of this relationship, and the rainbow wash of ‘isn’t she amazing’ feels a little trite.

The Untold and Untrue Story will definitely divide audiences, and there is a strong premise here delivered by two very charming performers. However, the tone and humour are a little underwhelming, presenting a safe homage that cashes in on a very two-dimensional Diana.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

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