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The Interview Review

Reviewed by Emma Bamford

I’ll start this review with a full disclaimer: I’m not a Royalist by any stretch of the imagination (I don’t have the tea towelsand commemorative plates) but I am quite fascinated by the whole Princess Diana story. We are 26 years down the line since that day in Paris, and the scrutiny of famous people has only got worse. 

Yolanda Kettle as Princess Diana. Photo by Michael Wharley.

My first thought on hearing about the play was surely we don’t need yet another piece of art about Princess Diana. The Crown is currently streaming its final season on Netflix, a season that focuses on Diana, her death and how the Royal family moved on from then, so it feels a little like we are currently oversaturated with it all. 

The Interview looks at the now infamous 1995 Panorama interview between Martin Bashir and Princess Diana. We follow the making of this documentary through to 25 years later, when Bashir’s deceitful methods were outed, while the BBC still defended him. The play queries journalistic practice and attempts to draw some parallels with today’s concept of “fake news”, and yet somehow it doesn’t feel as deep as it should.

Paul Burrell (Matthew Flynn), Diana’s former butler, opens the play by introducing us to what’s about to happen. Of all the cast, he is definitely one of the strongest. He’s our narrator throughout the play, interrupting scenes and directing our attention to what comes next.  Weirdly, in the online version I saw, his scenes are the only moments with any colour, quite literally; every other scene is filmed in black and white. I don’t know why this choice was made; given that an audience seeing the play at a theatre would have seen everything in colour, the black and white choices for the film version really didn’t add anything. Flynn really is good as Burrell, and really tries to drive home the narrative that he tried to keep Diana safe from everything. Regardless of your own views on Burrell, you can’t help but find Flynn’s portrayal compelling.

An empty stage serves as both the BBC newsrooms and Kensington Palace, allowing characters to enter and exit when needed without big scene changes. It’s made all the moredramatic by strip lighting being used, which brightens or dims depending on what is taking place on the stage. The filmed version allows for some rotating camera work which is effective, but the directing choices are somehow a little odd. If you were watching the staged version, it would make sense that one character would hold themselves still while another character speaks; you don’t want to draw the audience’s attention away from the speaking character, after all. But on film, this is presumably less important, as the camera can choose who to focus on. The revolving camera is often filming both scene partners at once, and it is disconcerting to have one character standing almost robotically still.

Yolanda Kettle and Tibu Fortes. Photo by Pamela Raith Photography.

“Robotic” would be my preferred way to describe Naomi Frederick’s portrayal of Luciana, Diana’s lady-in-waiting. She is clearly very in charge of Diana; her advice often sounds more like instruction. I imagine she is designed to be inscrutable but comes off as cold and calculating (especially jarring with her use of pet names for Diana). I can’t say I know much about the real-life Luciana so I can’t tell 
how well Frederick’s nailed the character, but she did come across as icily well-meaning. You wouldn’t want to upset her!

Ciarán Owens does a good job as Matt Wiesler, the “BBC’saward-winning graphic designer”, who was tasked by Bashir with faking the bank statements (among other things). He appeals to the audience over what happened, saying that “the BBC was justice”. He’s likeable, coming across as just a pawn in Bashir’s game. He also takes on the role of cameraman in the interview scenes, which made me comment to a friend of how the BBC was really “behind the scenes” on the whole thing. I think at that point I was looking way too hard to find layers that did not exist; Owens was simply playing a cameraman, not Wiesler (or any other BBC employee) at the time!

We move onto our main players – Diana (Yolanda Kettle) and Bashir (Tibu Fortes). Sadly, for me, these were the weakest parts of the cast. Neither of them were bad, per se, I just felt like something missed the mark.

My main takeaway from Fores’ performance of Bashir was that it had no depth. At various points in the play, he talks about his younger brother who died from Duchenne muscular dystrophy four years before the interview. Despite this death being fairly recent, I didn’t feel there was any emotion in Fortes’ telling of it. Maybe that was the point of it; was he using it to garner sympathy to be allowed in to Diana’s world? As the play goes on, Bashir becomes more of a villain. His asking of Wiesler to fake the bank statements is the first hint that he is not what he seems.

Kettle has the unenviable task of taking on the mantle such a well-known (and well-loved) figure. She had the look of Diana down to a tee, but the mannerisms and voice seemed like someone doing a bad impersonation. I couldn’t help but compare her unfavourably to both actresses in The Crown who have recently played Diana; I felt like Kettle needed to reign in the “Diana-ness” a little. At one point, Diana asks Bashir: “Martin, do you think people are starting to get sick of me?” For me … yes, kind of.

The portrayal of Diana confused me at times. Was the play trying to portray her as an “everywoman”, the ‘people’s Princess’ we’ve come to view her as, or are we meant to laugh at her? We find out that she’s a fan of M&S microwave meals, likes watching Brookside and finds John Major “sexy”. Some of the one liners felt like misplaced humour.

The play was fairly heavy-handed when it came to Diana’s outside status within the Royal family. The most obvious comparison today is Meghan Markle; at one point in the play, a potential interview with Oprah is mentioned, and Diana muses if she … should just go and live in America.”

I just felt like the play was lacking … something. Some gravitas, perhaps? At times I found it a little bit amateur; the acting wasn’t great and certain scenes reminded me of a GCSE theatre pieceThe scenes of the interview and its aftermath were among the most dramatic in the play, making the second half a much more enjoyable watch than the first. 

As Bashir says at one point, “he has gravitas, and if you have that in our business, you have everything.” While I don’t think The Interview is required viewing, I wouldn’t dissuade anyone from watching it if it was something that interested them.

The Interview is available to stream online through Original Theatre. Visit to purchase or rent the production.

Ciarán Owens, Naomi Frederick, Matthew Flynn. Photo by Pamela Raith Photography

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