- Xi Ye
Interview with Linus Karp
Updated: Apr 1
Linus Karp, Founder of Awkward Productions, and the personification of Lady Di in Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story, shares the story behind the conceptualisation of Diana and some of the wonderful things he experienced as a result.
What is Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story about?
Diana is a silly and queer take on Diana, who she is a person, a myth and a legend, and an exploration into her life that we know and how it actually happened. Combining drag, media, puppetry and audience participation to showcase a version we wish happened rather than how it actually played out. It is essentially pure queer joy!
What inspired you to create Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story?
This started as a birthday gift for my mother-in-law, who is a massive Diana fan. For years, I have sent the “tackiest” Diana gifts I could find, such as watches with Diana’s face, teaspoons, a big plaster bus that looks like Diana, which she finds hilarious. When she turned 60 in Spring 2021, I wrote something Diana themed, like Diana speaking to her and telling her life that later became this show. This was all for laughs at the start and left untouched for a while until I started thinking what to do next. Then, I found this script and wondered how it would work as a solo show. It then played out into what we have now and I had a lot of fun with it.
Importantly, did your mother keep any of your “tacky” gifts?
She kept them all! The bus is next to the dining table on the window sill. Since the show began, I have received many more weird and wonderful Diana gifts. I love them so much; I can’t possibly part with them.
Given the improv and audience participation nature of the show, do you think there will be differences in the experience of live audience vs those streaming it online?
I love live theatre and I want all the shows I make feel live. Watching something online will never be the same as watching in the room, but it will provide an opportunity for people who might not be able to see it otherwise. We are trying to incorporate online audiences into the show, for example typing into chat and enjoy some of the audience participation moments. There will still be some differences in terms of experience, but I think the show still lends itself quite well to the online audience thanks to the fact that it is quite interactive.
Given the improve nature and the spontaneity of the show, how easy or difficult is it for you to come up with something witty and react to audiences’ response in the moment?
I love improv, have done quite a lot of comedy improv and really enjoy it. When an audience sees you handling something in the moment rather than what is rehearsed, provided it is done well, they will warm to the improv. I love the live and unpredictability of the show and to perform it again and again after all this time.
In your opinion, what is the funniest or outrageous thing you have seen from audiences during your show?
I am always a little worried when audience have to take part in a few things, whether there will be long pauses and confusion as to what to do. So far, I am surprised by how well people respond to this and deliver as they are cheered on by other members of the audience. There have been a few people that add in a bit too much and you wish they would just stick to the script. In one of the performances, the guy who played Diana’s dad did a cartwheel, which has never happened before. The script says he should do a backflip and he just ran with it! One lady who played Diana’s mum, she held up a sheet and supposed to only talk with Diana's dad, but she added so much physicality to it. The show is advertised as 18+, but rest assured there is nothing bad and visual on stage.
Is audience participation mandatory?
Participation is not forced, you are always asked and if you don’t want to take part, you don’t have to. It is a safe and fun environment; the joke is never on the audience and we try to make everyone as comfortable as possible.
As the personification of Lady Di, is there anything you want to channel to your fans through the screen?
Lady Di is about highlighting issues that many people don’t like to talk about, such as AIDS, mental health and eating disorders. Embrace yourself, you’ve got this!
Where the next few shows are what’s next?
We are going to Belfast next and performing until Saturday 1st April. The Saturday performance is live streamed, which will be up for a few weeks after. There are then performances in London, Norwich, Cardiff and Manchester, which coincide with the coronation weekend, and then Penzance. We are taking this show to Edinburgh Fringe for the whole of August.
We will also be performing “How to Live a Jellicle Life”, based on the Musical “Cats” to Edinburgh Fringe. This will be on for the second half of August. If you enjoy one, you are likely to enjoy the other.