DO you know the story of Diana, Princess of Wales? Probably. But do you know writer-performer Linus Karp’s story of Diana?
“We very much doubt it,” says Linus, Swedish-born artistic director of Awkward Productions, the harbingers of theatrical chaos responsible for the revenge comedy Diana: The Untold And Untrue Story.
On tour at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York on February 3 and 4, this humorous, if tasteless, celebration of the people’s princess finds 6ft Iin Linus’s Diana in heaven as she shares the untold and untrue tale of her extraordinary life through a combustible combination of drag, multimedia, audience interaction, puppetry and “a lot of queer joy”.
Definitely not a Royal verité show, Diana marks Linus’s return to Monkgate, where he performed How To Live A Jellicle Life: Life Lessons From The 2019 Hit Movie Musical ‘Cats’, last February. “I had such a good time, I simply had to come back,” he says.
Here, Linus Karp discusses Diana, drag, truths and untruths with CharlesHutchPress
How did this latest performance at Theatre@41, Monkgate, come about?
“Alan [Park], who runs the venue, has been calling me daily to get me to come back. I finally said ‘yes’. It was a bit much really, but he is a sweetie, so why not?!”
What attracted you to the figure of Diana, Princess of Wales, who, like Marilyn Monroe, has never been allowed to rest peacefully?
“Probably just that – how today she is more myth and legend than an actual human who lived. It’s a very interesting thing to explore.”
Does that mean venturing into the Untrue is inevitable or is it a chance for mischief-making on your part?
“If one had to stick to the truth, most stories would be a lot more boring. I don’t want the audience to know what’s coming next – there are more interesting ways to tell a story than to show what actually happened.”
Have you had to deal with libel laws? Scrap that, you can’t libel the dead, can you, but you can label them. Discuss…
“Diana had a great sense of humour and I’m convinced she’d enjoy the show and the loving way she’s portrayed.”
Do you buy into any of the conspiracy theories surrounding her death?
“Not really, except for that she lives on the moon with Elvis. That’s a fact.”
Where might a gun and a knife fit into the show?
“Well that would be giving out spoilers – but who could Diana possibly want revenge on…?”
What makes Diana ripe for a drag act?
“Drag is a queer performance form and Diana is a queer icon. Not only was she a glamourous and stylish woman who, despite her fame and privilege, was an outsider who dared to speak her mind and go against her powerful husband and his family, but she also had famous friendships with queer legends like Elton John, Gianni Versace and Freddie Mercury.
“Most importantly, she really helped shape the narrative around AIDS, showing that its victims are worthy of love and human affection. Her stance and bold support of AIDS and HIV victims have improved countless queer lives.
“Becoming a drag act is a big compliment, and though I’m obviously not the first, I am surprised there aren’t more drag Dianas.”
Diana died (August 31 1997) before you were born (November 16 1999). What has led to your fascination with her?
“First of all: yes, I’m very young. I would have to thank my legend of a mother-in-law who really helped me step up my Diana interest to the next level.”
What do you enjoy about writing and performing a solo show?
“Mainly getting the chance to go to York and to be interviewed – even when the interviewer shares a first name with the antagonist of the story.”
What are your principal assets as a performer? London Pub Theatres reckon you are “naturally funny”. Or maybe is it that you are a waif-like chameleon, David Bowie style?
“Some people say I’m not just a pretty face. I disagree.”
Last November, you ran a workshop at The Pleasance, London, on creating, funding, producing, marketing and performing a solo show and the unique challenges that come with it. What were the biggest challenges of putting together Diana: The Untold And Untrue Story?
“Money. The trickiest thing about making theatre is always making it work financially. The margins are always tight; even a production that does well rarely makes much profit and putting on a show is always a big financial risk.
“Making sure we support independent, new and diverse voices is key. We don’t want a landscape where only those with money or big companies can afford to create theatre.”
As a Swede, what drew you to performing in Britain?
“My Diana references just wouldn’t land as well on a Swedish audience. I simply had to move.”
What’s your next project/production?
“I don’t know yet as I’m going to make the most of being Lady Di for as long as I can – but I promise it will be equally stupid, queer and joyful.”
What is there left to be told that hasn’t been told before?
“Trans rights are human rights and the Tories are destroying the country.”
Awkward Productions present Linus Karp in Diana: The Untold And Untrue Story, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, February 3 and 4, 7.30pm.Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.