Tag Archives: Peter Smith

Peter Smith’s Diana

Soho Theatre

PETER SMITH’S DIANA at the Soho Theatre

Peter Smith's Diana - Peter in black leather jacket seated

“Smith is best when funny – their quips are witty and well timed – but these moments are few and far between.”


Peter Smith’s DIANA is probably the most confusing show I’ve ever seen. Primarily because I don’t know who it’s meant for – certainly not lovers of the late princess or those interested in the impact of her persona. The performance is too wild, too unkept, for their liking. The genre too is muddled – are we watching cabaret, comedy, experimental theatre, spoken word, interpretive dance? Throughout the ‘play’ (and I use that word lightly), the audience is subjected to all sorts of…stuff…with no one thing ever reflected on long enough to really pack a punch.

The show has a promising start. Smith walks casually onto stage – the house lights still up – and speaks about their interest in Diana’s lost voice – a woman so visible yet so silenced. They rattle off four quotes from secret interviews which personally resonate with him. Logically, it is assumed that these four quotes will form four acts within the performance, a tether through which to always ground the performance in the life of the People’s Princess.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. Two of the aforementioned quotes feature in Smith’s winding monologue but there is no structure, no clear link. Recognisable mantras do not tie the piece together but rather offer the audience some respite – finally, something we understand! That is not to say that there is anything wrong with something interpretive, but Smith’s piece is so unrelenting, so lacking in moments of reflection, that it makes it hard to not be anything other than completely baffled. In one brief moment of silence after a particularly vigorous rant, a loud ‘what?’ was heard from the front row which perfectly summed it all up, to be honest.

There are recurrent themes – death, the ego, bodily autonomy – which, with some squinting, you can relate to the late Princess of Wales. Smith’s character in itself is confusing. Are they Diana? Are they a married woman of two children, as they proclaim? Presumably, their shifting persona is to highlight the many different groups who saw Diana as their icon. However, with no distinction, even in body language, no one perspective ever comes into view.

Positively, Smith’s energy is hugely impressive. The show’s pace is high, and their speech impassioned. They jump into song with ease – they have a terrific voice – though the ditties’ relevance can’t always be deciphered. One was about women on Sundays. No, I don’t know either! Smith is best when funny – their quips are witty and well timed – but these moments are few and far between.

Five florescent light sticks create the impression of a set and props. They are a boat, a bedroom, a cigarette, a microphone. They change colour – from harsh white to warm orange to aggressive red – and flash and strobe when Smith’s ego is challenged. One assumes that the lights represent the new light shone on Diana’s life through her clandestine interviews but, like Smith’s unclear character, this is metaphor is lost amongst all the other random musings.

Costume changes are abundant. There is a certain erotism to their regular undressing – for much of the performance, Smith is shirtless in lace pantyhose – and they at one point writhe around on a makeshift bed before throwing hot wax on their leg to signify semen. Their best outfit is a puffy white gown – at first thought to be Diana’s famous wedding dress but actually more akin to a vintage clown costume. Spectacle is certainly a notable theme throughout – there is an interesting discussion on the relationship between performer and audience – but it is unfortunately another weak musing amongst a lot of unrelated drivel.

In short, what does Peter Smith’s DIANA really say? There’s certainly a lot of words and countless topics discussed – TikTok, AIDS, Barbra Streisand, paedophilia, phones – but what we should pay heed to is completely unclear. The links to Princess Diana are tenuous it feels almost insulting to use her name in its title. Proceed with caution – this is probably not the show for you!


Reviewed on 18th July 2023

by Flora Doble

Photography by Harry Elletson



Previously reviewed at this venue:


Bloody Elle | ★★★★★ | July 2023
Britanick | ★★★★★ | February 2023
Le Gateau Chocolat: A Night at the Musicals | ★★★★ | January 2023
Welcome Home | ★★★★ | January 2023
Super High Resolution | ★★★ | November 2022
We Were Promised Honey! | ★★★★ | November 2022
Hungry | ★★★★★ | July 2022
Oh Mother | ★★★★ | July 2022
Y’Mam | ★★★★ | May 2022
An Evening Without Kate Bush | ★★★★ | February 2022


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Reviewed – 25th September 2020



“the whole piece is a show of inspiring collective effort”


Three panels hang above the stage projecting footage of the earth. Beneath them facts about the rainforest and overpopulation arrive on the back wall in orange and then disappear. One by one people begin to sing of “The Earth and I” as the stage brightens. Then it is all change. The warm reds and long notes transform into a blue stage which people speed across, an indication of the pace of the modern world. Bodies are packed together, moving herd-like.

This is the impactful opening of ‘Globaleyes’, a contemporary physical theatre work tackling the vast subject of globalisation. Across the course of the performance the dances focus on climate change, poverty, displacement, war and slave labour – hardly a small task. The show originated in 2002, and this recording, which Chickenshed are streaming in response to the impact of Covid-19 on theatres, is of the 2013 production. It features Chickenshed’s company members, 200 Chickenshed students and members of their adult theatre group in a refreshingly diverse ensemble of performers.

Globaleyes features a range of performance styles, some closer to dance, others more in the realm of physical theatre, some solo performances, some unison ensembles. This variety of styles, as directed by Christine Niering with Jonathan Morton and Louise Perry, shaped and defined each of the different themes. In a particularly strong number, two sets of two performers are tied together, turning each duet into many-limbed single beings which create spider-like shapes across the stage.

Changes in light and sound also dictated each new phase of the piece. Branches projected across hanging fabric (set construction by John Mann) are accompanied by incredibly tranquil music. Performers are turned into a homogenous silhouette by light. Sometimes music is interrupted by audio snippets from news reports and politicians speaking, including notably a speech that was made at Martin Luther King’s funeral. The hanging screens display a range of footage, historical and custom-made, to highlight the themes of each number. Both light design, sound design and music are vital to this piece, and Andrew Caddies (lighting design), Phil Haines (sound design) and Dave Carey (Musical Director) do a fantastic job of creating each new atmosphere.

Some of the scenes offer more impact and more clarity than others. Certain sections feel overly long without delving as deep as they could into the topic they are tackling. The challenges of creating a piece that has such a broad focus is apparent at times.

But from the creative team to the performers onstage, the whole piece is a show of inspiring collective effort. Watching this seven years on from when it was filmed, the continued resonance of the themes is clearly evident. The final message of Globaleyes is one of hope in the possibility of change and the power of community.



Reviewed by Amelia Brown

Photography by John Pridmore



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Last ten shows reviewed by Amelia:
Afterglow | ★★½ | Waterloo East Theatre | October 2019
Germ Free Adolescent | ★★★★ | The Bunker | October 2019
Before I Was A Bear | ★★★★★ | The Bunker | November 2019
I Will Still Be Whole (When You Rip Me In Half) | ★★★★ | The Bunker | November 2019
My White Best Friend And Even More Letters Best Left Unsaid | ★★★★ | The Bunker | November 2019
Potted Panto | ★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | December 2019
The Girl With Glitter in Her Eye | ★★½ | The Bunker | January 2020
Essence | ★★½ | The Vaults | February 2020
Flights | ★★★½ | Omnibus Theatre | February 2020
Maliphantworks3 | ★★★★★ | The Coronet Theatre | February 2020


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