Linus Karp as the queer princess in Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story. (Supplied)
A new play pays homage to Princess Diana’s legacy of LGBTQ+ allyship.
The late Princess of Wales remains a cornerstone of queer culture 25 years after her death for many reasons, not least her genuinely trailblazing HIV and AIDS activism.
Her story is one that’s been pulled apart and retold countless times, with varying degrees of historical accuracy and success.
One of the latest, Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story, does away with the history books entirely, creating a play that’s as “queer as possible”.
“What we’re doing is no different to The Crown, except it’s better because it’s queer,” Linus Karp tells PinkNews ahead of his new play opening.
“So if you want serious and cinematic watch The Crown, sure. Or if you want to have fun with it and know this definitely didn’t happen but this is how the gays would want it, that’s us.”
Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story started as a birthday present for Linus’ partner’s mother, but soon turned into a queer extravaganza.
“Especially over the last two years, as a theatre-maker, I want my work to be as queer as possible. As queer people, we grew up with 95 per cent, if not more, of everything being heterosexual.”
And acknowledging her status as a “gay icon” who did “so many amazing things for the queer community”, Diana felt like the perfect fit.
Cue the people’s princess in the afterlife, played by Karp himself, as she sits down to reflect on the (evidently queer) events of her life. Along the journey, familiar faces pop up, Prince Charles (Joseph Martin, Karp’s partner), the Queen (Geri Allen) and even God (Zina Badran).
“It’s the events we all know quite well, but rather than being the Diana story as we know it, it’s the Diana story how we wish it had played out,” Karp explains.
The show does not shy away from absolute chaos with puppetry, drag and off-screen shenanigans making it a one-hour immersive queer experience.”
Both Karp and Martin are sure that, had she lived, Diana would have continued her LGBTQ+ advocacy.
“When she was holding hands and hugging AIDS patients at the time when that was not seen, they changed the public view on those things,” Karp says.
“If you were to look at something that corresponds today maybe she would be fighting for trans rights. It’s something that some people would see as very controversial, but she would still choose to do the right thing rather than the thing that was expected of her.”
And with King Charles’ recent ascension, with Queen Consort Camilla to be coronated next to him, for Karp and Martin remembering Diana has never been more relevant.
“King Charles and Camilla bring that entire triangle of trauma back to life again,” Karp notes.
Martin agrees, adding: “The longer an event goes past in recent history, the easier it gets to mythologise it and Diana becomes many incredible things.”
In recent years Princess Diana has become prime meme fodder – there’s a Diana mood for all occasions, from big-eyed and despondent to fierce and full of revenge.
At its core, this show is about pure imagination and celebrating queer joy. “It’s quite wildly exaggerated and over the top at times. Like a kids’ show for adults. And full of audience participation,” Karp explains.
“I think it is quite freeing to not base it on the truth because that means you can go anywhere and there are no limits. It is an extremely pro-Diana story, she’s the hero.”
As for what he hopes the audience take from the show: “I really want the audience to share the queer joy. I love creating a space where queer people get to come and enjoy something together and have fun and be queer.”
Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story is touring the UK until April 2023. Tickets available here.