The Diana Tapes
Reviewed – 26th June 2018
“While stretching out the comic potential, the writing lacks the skill needed to balance this against the weight of the story”
Twenty years after her untimely death, Princess Diana still remains a significant figure in the public eye, not least because of her decision to expose her life and the ‘misery’ she encountered as a royal wife. Our attitudes to the monarchy changed irreversibly and it can be argued the subsequent reconstruction put an end to some of the elitism and hypocrisy. Without Diana it is almost certain that we would not have witnessed the freedom of choice Prince Harry benefitted from when he so evidently married for love.
“The Diana Tapes”, presented by What Will The Neighbors Say Theatre Company focuses on the scandal that surrounded the publication of Andrew Morton’s book about Diana. The ‘tapes’ in question are the cassettes onto which Diana recorded her darkest secrets. These were surreptitiously passed onto Andrew Morton; it was imperative that the princess was not revealed to be the source of the book’s material. Written and directed by Wednesday Derrico, the narrative shifts from Morton’s office, Diana’s sitting room and the dingy West London café where James Colthurst, one of her best friends covertly hands the tapes over.
It is a wonder, though, that the cover wasn’t blown before Morton wrote the first word of the book such is the unsubtlety of the depiction of these episodes. It is a complicated story but the fragile mechanism that underpinned the actual events are overwound to the limit in Derrico’s production. While stretching out the comic potential, the writing lacks the skill needed to balance this against the weight of the story. James Clements, who also penned the piece, plays Andrew Morton as a bit of a geezer. An accurate portrayal or not, it is unbelievable that this clumsy character would be entrusted with the sensitivity of his task in hand. But then Ana Cristina Schuler’s Diana looked as though she didn’t really care. The cast of four collectively conjured the atmosphere of a youth club rather than the murky misconduct of a publishing house looking to cash in on a goldmine. The sense of danger is lost in the performances, as is the poignancy of Diana’s recordings: with much emphasis on the cassette tapes it is a shame that the sound design often made the voiceovers difficult to hear.
Jorge Morales Picó has a bewilderingly migrating accent as the go-between James Colthurst, while Sam Hood Adrain struts and frets unconvincingly as cavalier publisher, Michael O’Mara. It seems, at times, that the company have not quite decided on the genre of the piece; the moments of comedy and of pathos are at odds with one another. But the energy of this four strong troupe cannot be faulted, and it is an interesting angle on Diana and her rationale. Like Morton’s biography, the source material is a goldmine, yet somehow the riches have not quite been unearthed.
Reviewed by Jonathan Evans
Photography by Pablo Calderón-Santiago
The Diana Tapes
Stockwell Playhouse until 13th July