By Conor O’Neill
Photography courtesy of David Bird
Busy touring the UK with his one-man show Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story, Swedish born writer, actor and performer, Linus Karp took a break from his busy schedule to talk with CultureCrush NI on everything from his early desire to perform, to writing, queer theatre and what Belfast audiences can expect from the show.
CC: I saw your show-reel and going by the variety of roles you have played I assume you’re a trained performer?
LK: “Yes, I trained back in Sweden where I’m originally from. I trained at a very weird drama school which was very much into method acting and how it should be done. It was only after I left that I realised there were other ways of doing it and acting and performing could be so much fun, if you want it to be. I’ve been lucky enough to have performed a variety of weird and wonderful parts.”
CC: And do you come from an artistic, theatrical family?
LK: “Not professionally. No one in my family is theatrical. I come from a small village in Sweden surrounded by forests so I don’t know where my passion for acting came from because no one in my family did anything like that. I do know that from a young age that I knew that this was what I wanted to do. Even though my parents aren’t from a performing background they have been very supportive of what I wanted to do and they always brought me up to believe I could be anything I wanted to be, which has led me to portraying Princess Diana.”
CC: When you’re choosing a part do you look for dialogue, the look of the part, or as a jobbing actor is it a matter of taking whatever is going to pay the bills?
LK: “I think it’s a mixture. The last few years most of the shows have been created and performed by myself. This is obviously a lot more work but it means I choose what I want to do, and I don’t think anyone would choose a Swedish man to play Princess Diana. I love to do things that are creative, weird, different and varied, but equally I do want to pay the rent so I’m quite happy taking on whatever work comes my way sometimes.”
CC: Where did the idea for Diana: The Untold And Untrue Story come from?
LK: “Originally it started for my mother-in-law, who’s from Belfast actually, she’s a big Diana fan and she turned 60 in early 2021. For years I’ve always sent her weird Diana things for her birthdays and various occasions. When it was coming up to her 60th birthday I thought I’d write something to read for her around the dinner table. When I was writing it was so much fun and the piece just got longer and longer.
“Later, when I’d finished my last tour I was looking through the script and thought, ‘Hmm, maybe this could be something to work on’, there was something there and I decided to turn it into a show. It was also really good timing; the new season of The Crown was just about to be released and Harry was releasing his book. It all just seemed so relevant and really well timed.”
CC: What is your writing routine? Do you just write when the creativity comes round or do you sit down at set times and work to a daily quota?
LK: “I’m very much an evening person. I struggle to be creative anytime before 6pm. Usually, when I decide to do something it’s just a case of sitting down and writing it. I think the most useful thing I’ve heard about writing is when James Graham said, ‘The most important thing is just get the first draft finished.’. When you’re writing the first draft it doesn’t feel right. After the first draft is down you can start having fun. It’s so easy to stop yourself at first, but when you have that first draft then you can play with it, dress it up, add to it and change things.”
CC: I’m interested in your use of puppetry and multimedia. Are they genres you’ve used before and how do you think they lend themselves to this piece of work?
LK: “I’ve used quite a lot of multimedia in my last show, but with this show, because I had written it as a multi performer show, then decided to do it as a solo show I thought, ‘How do I do this?’. I thought some of the characters could be done with puppets and others done with screens and voice-overs. I just wanted to find creative ways to work it and to challenge myself. I’ve never worked with puppets before, I’ve never done drag before, nor am I a dancer or a singer, but I wanted to throw everything at it and see what worked. I wanted to have as much fun as I could.”
CC: I assume you had to collaborate with the show, what are you like with collaboration?
LK: “I love collaboration. And with this show we were granted Arts Council funding which was great. We were able to get in a lot of great collaborators. We have a woman called Tara who is a puppeteer and she came in and taught us how to do it. My partner Joseph, who is also co-director of the piece, does the puppeteering though the show with a lot of enthusiasm. It’s been such a learning experience because we’ve got to looks into all these forms of performing.”
CC: Given that Diana is pretty much revered in the UK, if not across the entire world, have you ran into any controversy regarding the show?
LK: “Not really. Everyone who has seen the show has been wonderful about it. It’s amazing because we have had such a range of people come to see it. I made it specifically for young, queer people but we’ve had all sorts of people come along. Just the other night in Birmingham we had a woman of 85-years-old at the show and she said how much she enjoyed it. It’s been fun to appeal to such a wide range of people. There has been a couple of weird comments online that some people think it’s in bad taste, but that’s all coming from people who haven’t actually saw the show.
“I do understand that if you’re a devout supporter of the monarchy then this probably isn’t the show for you, but the show is self aware and does poke fun at itself. It’s also a celebration of Princess Diana. Quite a few of the reviews have said that they think Diana would have enjoyed it and that feels like praise indeed. Diana had such a sense of humour. I really do think she would have enjoyed it.”
CC: Diana was also one of the first celebrities to reach out to the queer community during the height of the HIV/AIDS outbreak and gave her support to normalise the situation.
LK: “Exactly! Gay icon is what people call so many celebrities these days but Diana really earned it. She was there when it was really quite a controversial time. She changed society’s view of AIDS and improved so many queer lives. We had an audience member who saw the show and had worked with AIDS charities in the 1990s. He said when Diana died in 1997 so many gay men were so moved and devastated. He was very positive about the show and was grateful that the piece included a lot of Diana’s work with gay activism and HIV/AIDS activism.”
CC: What in you opinion is the power of queer theatre?
LK: “I think it’s amazing. It’s so wonderful and powerful, it’s life-affirming when you’re in a room that is just filled with queer love. That’s what we’ve experienced a lot of with this show, people are just so onboard with it straight away. I’ve performed this show across the country and I think I can tell the difference when it’s a queer venue straight away and whether or not it’s a queer audience. You just have that joy and feel that connection straight away.
“I know a lot of shows will have queer representation but that doesn’t inherently make them queer.. When something is created for queer people and you have queer people there it’s very special. We’re so grateful that the queer community has been so supportive and so amazing towards our work. I’m obviously queer myself and everything I do and I want to do is very queer.”
CC: So what can the Belfast audience expect from Diana: The Untold And Untrue Story?
LK: “More than anything I think a fun time. I think Belfast is ripe for it. We were there last year and the people have such a wonderful sense of humour and it’s really fun. It’s queer, it’s stupid, it’s a celebration of Diana. plus there’s audience participation. It’s not the type of show where you just sit back and watch. You’re very much part of it. That said, if you don’t want to participate you can just sit at the back, that’s also fine. I explain at the start of the show what goes on and those interested in getting involved can do, others can just sit back and watch.
“I think queer chaos is exactly what to expect!”
CC: This show sounds like a blast. If you want to book your tickets simply visit http://www.accidentaltheatre.co.uk
If you can’t attend Diana: The Untold And Untrue Story the April 1st Belfast show can be streamed live into your home or to your phone by using the above link.
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