Princess Di is back for her revenge – or is she? Trying to review this show is like trying to review a mountain or a monolith – it has already become such a cultural institution at the Fringe this year that you can’t help but find yourself drawn to a seat and sucked into the absolute batshit chaos of it all. Linus Karp has quite deftly marketed this show by wandering the streets of Edinburgh in his relatively convincing Diana get-up, and it has clearly paid off with packed houses and queues spiralling around Bristo Square every afternoon. Safe to say I went into this one excited. Diana: the Untold and Untrue Story delivers with its’ fascinatingly unhinged approach to comedy, and throws you to the wall immediately with hysterical audience participation and an unforgettable impersonation of the ‘People’s Princess’.
The concept is just as frivolous and irreverent as it sounds – from heaven, Princess Di arrives to reclaim her narrative and put a stop to the lies (read: historical events) and deliver justice (read: violent threats on the lives of already-deceased members of the Royal Family). A gigantified Queen Elizabeth appears on the screen to blaring noises of “I AM THE QUEEN”, while the then Prince Charles appears only as a quite lifelike cardboard cut-out manipulated by Linus across the piece into unsavoury and hilarious positions. Members of the audience are drafted from their seats at the beginning of the piece to take part, with every role from ‘Gay Scientist’ to ‘The Queen’s Corgi’ being played by the sometimes willing and sometimes unwilling onlookers. I was (typecast?) to play Prince Harry’s Nanny throughout, and soon found myself aerially ravished by a monstrous Camilla puppeteered by Stage Manager and Associate Director Joseph Martin.
Linus’ depiction of Lady Di sees her go from a postured, reserved young woman to fighting a boxing match with Camilla for her husband’s hand in marriage. To the rapturous glee of the audience, he springs around the huge stage with a mix of awkward grace and spree surreptitiousness. Cycling through iconic outfits from Diana’s wardrobe, and ending the piece in an action scene donning the famous revenge dress, it would be easy to say that Linus’ performance was a crowd-pleaser. Actually, too easy. While some moments definitely feel poised to have the crowd whooping and cheering, there is a sly introspection in the performance. Linus manages to capture the odd sycophancy that surrounds ‘Ar Di’, poke a satirical stick at it, and yet still never depose her of her redeeming qualities. It feels as though across the hour, the audience fall in love with Diana and her exploits all over again, even if parts of the piece do feel designed to shit on the memory of each and every member of the Royal household. They don’t fall in love with the real Diana, they fall in love with Linus’ fantastically amped up version of her that captures a whole nation’s topsy-turvy relationship with the Royals.
I have literally zero partiality to the Royal Family, which means I was a sympathetic audience to the show’s un-princely, wheeze-inducing, and often stylistically shitposty gags about the blue-bloods. You can hear the palpable shock in the audience as the royals are deposed by Linus’ gleeful wit. The Camilla puppet induces laughter that leaves half the crowd winded and the other half tearing up with cantankerous joy. A camp-as-anything song about Diana’s love for the Queer community pushes the show into an appreciative direction, soon unwound as we watch a will-they-won’t-they scene involving an infamous tunnel in France. The humour is so profoundly stupid that you can’t help but find yourself wrapped up in it all, with to-the-minute memes from Come Dine with Me interspersed with call-back jokes about Captain Sir Tom Moore. There was clearly a divinely fun process to piecing all of these jokes together, and it reflects back onto you with candour.
Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story comes together with slap-dash energy and a glare of comedic brilliance. Rowdy, unhinged, and wilfully savaging – this show is a one hit K.O of satire and silliness.
Recommended Drink: Crack open a bottle of Puligny Montrachet, Ar Di’s favourite, and strap in for the madness.
Catch Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story at Pleasance Dome – KingDome until August 28th (not the 15th or 21st) at 16:30. Tickets are available through the EdFringe Box Office.