Pros: The design is well polished.
Cons: Everything else.
In 1991, tabloid columnist Andrew Morton was approached by one of Princess Diana’s closest friends with a daunting request that he couldn’t refuse. He was asked to write her biography. Tired of suffering in silence, the wife of the heir to the British throne wanted to expose her husband’s wrongdoings and the devious scheming of the royal family and, to do so, she had chosen a journalist with a background as an historian.
Morton was invited by Diana’s doctor, James Colthurst, to write a set of questions every week for the Princess, whose answers she would then record on tape. These audio cassettes still exist and are, quite possibly, the only shield that prevented the biographer being involved in legal action with St James’s Palace.
In a co-production between New York-based What Will The Neighbors Say? and Stockwell Playhouse, this controversial episode has been rewritten by James Clements and is brought to the London stage under the direction of Wednesday Derrico. But a lack of dramatisation and poor entertainment value makes it drag, even given its short 70-minute running time.
Whereas Jorge Morales Pico manages to maintain a demure demeanour as Diana’s physician, James Clements as Andrew Morton often provokes unwanted laughter from the public during scenes that should have been deadly serious.
In the title role, Ana Cristina Schuler is too young, too lewd and too capricious. Her portrayal is questionable at best, and at times offensive for those who had genuine admiration for the late Princess of Wales. She plays Diana as a self-indulgent and narcissistic girl whose language and manners are far too petty for the character she’s portraying, and whose intentions are dictated by revenge, rather than a hunger for justice.
Princess Diana’s short life was melodramatic, and charged with strong personal choices. But the playwright fails to transpose these into theatrical terms, and the unsuitably chosen cast is unable to flesh out the predictable, meagre, crass and barely informative dialogue.
The episode is presented to the public with very little background and relies too heavily on pre-acquired knowledge of the facts. Despite the story having been already exposed to the public eye, the details are less familiar to those who are too young to remember the events reported by the tabloids.
The only recognition of merit goes to the flawless transition between scenes, essentially supported by a well-polished sound and lighting design and an efficient use of props and furniture. In Mairi Macinnes’s original vision, two black tables and some black cubes offer all the necessary background to each scene, together with some of Diana’s most iconic gowns and jewels.
Author: James Clements
Director: Wednesday Derrico
Producer: What Will The Neighbors Say? and Stockwell Playhouse
Box Office: 020 7720 6897
Booking Link: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/event/223374
Booking Until: 13 July 2018