Review: The Diana Tapes (What Will The Neighbors Say?)

Photo of Jorge Morales Pico and James ClementsWWTNS?​ presents The Diana Tapes, a play by James Clements, in Toronto

I’m definitely not a monarchist, but even I admit to being captivated by the story of Diana, Princess of Wales. The beautiful young woman swept away by the prince. The fairy tale wedding. The troubled marriage. The dramatic car crash in Paris. Who can resist the inherent drama of her life? The Diana Tapes, being performed by What Will The Neighbors Say? Theatre Company at the Red Sandcastle Theatre, focuses on a crucial episode of Diana’s life – the 1992 publication of Andrew Morton’s biography, Diana: Her True Story.

The book was a bombshell, revealing Diana’s suicide attempts, her bulimia, and her husband, Prince Charles’, affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles. It ultimately resulted in the end of the royal marriage. The Diana Tapes shows the real-life intrigue and subterfuge that lead to its publication.

Diana (Ana Cristina Schuler) records her thoughts on cassette tapes with her friend Dr. James Colthurst (Jorge Morales Picó), who then delivers them to writer Andrew Morton (James Clements) and publisher Michael O’Mara (Sam Hood Adrain). The play moves briskly between a café, the publishing office, and Diana’s private rooms. I though the Red Sandcastle Theatre’s small space was perfect for the intimate and private conversations happening in each location.

James Clements’ script is lean and taut: just an hour long. He presents Diana as vulnerable, but also determined. She wants the world to hear her side of the story and to know that even princesses can suffer. He also explores class dynamics and the power of the media in the scenes between Morton and O’Mara.

I thought all the actors were very strong. Schuler’s Diana showed royal restraint. Her movements were precise, formal, and moderated. Even when she was upset, her emotions were tightly controlled. Picó, as Colthurst, showed genuine warmth for her. He was solicitous and protective, but willing to do what she wants even when he thinks it’s dangerous. Adrain was perfect as the brash publisher O’Mara. He’s clearly in this for the money and has no love or respect for the institution of the monarchy. And Clements as Morton could barely contain his excitement at the biggest scoop of his career.

My one complaint was the accents. Accents in theatre are a pet peeve of mine. In general, they are hard to do well and to sustain for the length of an entire play. Both Picó and Schuler clearly aren’t British, and I found their accents hard to understand and distracting. Instead of making the dialogue more realistic, they made it more artificial. I’d rather they just use their normal accents (whatever they are).

But that is just a small complaint. All in all, I really enjoyed The Diana Tapes. This summer marks the 20th anniversary of Diana’s death, making the subject timely and relevant. It’s a real-life fairy tale gone wrong.

Details:

  • The Diana Tapes is being performed at the Red Sandcastle Theatre (922 Queen Street East) until October 7, 2017.
  • Shows are Tuesday – Saturday at 8pm and Wednesdays and Sundays at 3pm.
  • Tickets are $20 and are available online or by calling 416-845-9411.

Photo of Jorge Morales Picó and James Clement provided by the company

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