Last Friday (27th) a friend and I took ourselves off to the theatre to witness the opening night of Jonathan Maitland’s play The Interview, directed by Michael Fenitman.
The play dissects arguably the most famous television interview ever – Martin Bashir’s conversation with Diana, Princess of Wales. With one of the most famous women in history at the centre, some may be groaning at the lack of female writer/director, and I would be tempted to agree. However, the play puts Bashir under the microscope and analyses his method and motives for obtaining the interview.
The first scene with Diana is tantalising. She stands in one corner of the theatre-in-the-round and looks up at her bodyguard through her eyelashes. We hold our breath but she merely nods and we are deprived of hearing the hair-raising accuracy of Yolanda Kettle’s interpretation of the voice. Then we’re introduced to Bashir, in the midst of persuading the BBC that Panorama is the best platform for the Princess to rebut Charles’s Jonathan Dimbleby interview. Things take a sinister turn when Bashir asks the art department to forge bank statements confirming that Diana’s nearest and dearest are being paid by the press and secret services.
Diana appears to be on board with Bashmir from the beginning, she isn’t surprised by the information on the bank statements. But its a fantastically subtle jibe at Bashir’s dishonesty that cements this portrayal of him as a manipulative liar. He produces a picture of his late brother and shows it to Diana’s bodyguard – Paul. He laments his brother’s admiration for Paul, claiming that he was the one singular member of the royal family that his brother was most desperate to meet. In the following scene Bashir is alone with Diana when he proffers the same picture to the Princess and rehashes the story word-for-word. The audience laugh, it’s comical and yet sad, Diana is so earnest and so used to hearing this that she doesn’t think to question him.
Yolanda Kettle dazzles as Diana. From her very first entrance, she slops out of the shadows with the famous head-tilt, looking up at her body guard through her eyelashes. We hold our breath, waiting for the voice, but she just nods. When we finally hear her speak the hairs on my arms stand on end. She’s in the room.
Tibu Fortes perfectly treads the line between being intentionally deceptive and a man who bends the rules to expose the truth. At the end of the play Bashir is confronted by his BBC colleagues (played by the fantastic ensemble) who all claim to abhor his decision to forge the documents and publicly shame him. Fortes plays Bashir’s charm and decided vulnerability with grace and accuracy – he’s a joy to watch on stage.
What really stood our for me were the three ensemble actors who played all the peripheral characters from BBC executives to Diana’s friends to the paparazzi. Matthew Flynn, Naomi Frederick and Ciaran Owens were all enchantingly versatile as they melted from character to character with just the removal of a jacket or the addition of a headset.
I wanted to be transported back to the 90s and the height of Diana-mania and I was. Could it have been more in-depth – yes. Could it have been more stylised – yes. But I left feeling energised and inspired that this story had been brought to life in a charming, intimate theatre – so intimate, in fact, that Diana spoke the famous line “there were three of us in that marriage – so it was a bit crowded” while she was sitting among the audience.
The Interview is a great night out, with some fantastic one liners and a clever take on a history which has so recently been retold in Netflix’s The Crown. If you loved Debicki’s Diana and are looking for your next royal fix The Interview runs at the Park Theatre until 25th November.
Production photos by Pamela Raith