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Linus Karp first wrote about his show Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story for QX last year, when it was touring the country. The show has received considerable critical acclaim and it’s now running at The King’s Head Theatre until 5 May 2024. We’ve re-published Linus Karp’s original story about the show to accompany its latest run. We hope you get to enjoy the read and the show. 

– Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story by Linus Karp – 

What does one give one’s mother-in-law for her 60th birthday? We are not talking about any mother-in-law – but a wonderful, humorous, loving, iconic one. One that goes above and beyond to support your silly little shows, attending them from Edinburgh to Penzance. That is the kind of mother-in-law Linda is. Moreover, deciding on a Birthday gift is easy – you write her a play about Princess Diana. She loves Princess Diana; one is very well aware after having spent hours laughing together over Diana memes. After having sent countless weird Diana memorabilia online for her for various occasions and non-occasions – books, wristwatches, busts in plaster that look more like Denise Welch…

Linus Karp as Dian in Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story

So, I went to work and started writing a short piece about the late, great Princess Diana. Though it did not stay short for very long. I was having way too much fun, delving into the life of this timeless icon and being weirded out by the British institution that is the Monarchy. In the late Spring of 2021, we read it aloud together, my in-laws and I. We laughed a bit, we moved on, and we probably got drunk.

Almost a year later. I had finished my tour of my previous show. I had been working on a new script, but the idea felt wrong, I was struggling creatively, and it wasn’t enjoyable. Then I heard Diana’s voice speaking to me from the afterlife. Or was it Linda’s voice from this life? Or did I just scroll through my documents looking for something else when I rediscovered my silly little Diana script? Who knows! I didn’t really need to take more than a look at it to realise that this was what I was meant to do next. This felt fun, stupid, joyful, and ever so queer. Let’s transform me into Princess Diana.

Developing the script, studying the Monarchy in depth. Researching the gay icon that is Diana. The phrase gay icon is thrown around to pretty much any famous woman who’s doing the bare minimum for equal rights or happens to release a pop song. And I don’t wish to be policing people’s right to decide who to stan and paint as a rainbow hero; there is no limit to how many queens we can have as gay icons. Diana’s fame, looks, fashion sense and famous friendships with people like Elton John, Freddy Mercury and Versace are reasons to make her a gay icon in and of themselves. But going into detail and really finding out the impact Diana’s activism had on queer lives made me realise what an icon she really was – and still is to this day. Holding hands or hugging AIDS patients may not seem like something bold to do today – and much of that is partly because of Diana’s action. At a time when AIDS was not talked about, when people distanced themselves from those infected and even families of those who died from the illness would often attribute the death to a more publicly accepted cause. HIV/AIDS was seen as dirty and shameful – and discrimination against those suffering was justified. So when the most famous woman on the planet spoke publicly about it, let herself be photographed holding hands and hugging AIDS patients and took an active interest, society’s view started to change. Many conservative voices did not think she should talk about something so controversial and queer, but Diana did not care, and thanks to her, countless queer lives were bettered, and the stigma around the illness lessened.

It’s the boldness and genuine affection of her activism that makes her different – AIDS is not the only example. She spoke about her own eating disorder and suffering post-natal depression at a time when not many, and especially no princesses, would. She fought to make landmines illegal, despite Tory government ministers saying she should stay out of it. She didn’t play it safe but chose to highlight issues that were seen as controversial at the time, where she could use her popularity to help open people’s eyes and make actual change to many vulnerable groups. I do wonder what further charities and issues, had her life not been cut tragically short, Diana would have championed. I believe she would’ve celebrated the day equal marriage was legalised, that she would’ve advocated for PrEP and fought for trans rights. She would have continued to be the queer icon we knew her as. And with this show, I wanted to show that.

Linus Karp in Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story

The most amazing thing when putting together the show was that I managed to get Arts Council funding for it. It meant that I could bring in amazing creatives – a designer who helped get Diana’s looks just right. A drag and make-up artist who helped me perfect Di’s signature look. A choreographer making sure my Princess moves were on point. A composer giving Di the bops she deserves. Other performers joining through the magic of video. A BSL interpreter making Ar Di accessible to the deaf community (another community she cherished – she did even learn BSL).

Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story
Creating ‘Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story’ has been one of the great privileges of my life. To delve into the background of this incredible gay icon and create a show with help with many amazing queer artists. We have been touring the show since it opened at the Pleasance Theatre in London in November – taking the show all over the UK and even making it available online. I can’t believe how amazing the reactions have been.

I really hope you, reader, want to come and join us and become a Di-hard. Though if you’re a staunch supporter of the Monarchy, maybe it’s not the show for you…

Words by Linus Karp.

Book tickets:

Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story is at The King’s Head Theatre, Islington Square, 116 Upper Street, The Angel, London N1 1AB, United Kingdom.

WINNER – The Laura Award
WINNER – OffFest Award Best Play
RUNNER UP – Brighton Fringe Award for Excellence

★★★★★ “A masterclass” – The Skinny
★★★★★ “Perfectly imagined” – The National
★★★★★ “As poised and polished as it is anarchic and outrageous.” – London Theatre 1
★★★★★ “Unexpected, uninhibited and unhinged” – Edinburgh Reviews
★★★★★ “A riot from beginning to end” – The Wee Review
★★★★★ “Nothing short of spectacular” – Lisa in the Theatre
★★★★★ “Diana may have been the People’s Princess, but it’s a safe bet that Karp is the Fringe’s.” – Corr Blimey

To find out more about the show and upcoming dates – check out @awkwardprods on social media.



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