PATRICK MARMION reviews The Interview: This is a five-star cracker

Say what you like about the original – this interview with Diana is a five-star cracker: PATRICK MARMION reviews The Interview

The Interview (Park Theatre,London)

Verdict: A right royal farrago 


There’s unlikely ever to be a last word on that interview…the one Princess Diana gave to Martin Bashir in 1995. But Jonathan Maitland’s scathing and excoriating new play has a very good go.

His drama is as cleverly plotted as Bashir’s interview was devious.

In the first half he lays out the journalist’s ploys to lure the wary Diana: duping her obsequious butler, Paul Burrell; steering her away from rivals (including the BBC’s Jennie Bond), and planting a rumour about one of Charles’s ‘mistresses’ having an abortion (a slander for which William and Harry’s nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke later won damages). 

Bashir also ordered graphic designer Matt Wiessler to create false bank statements to win the trust of Diana’s brother Charles Spencer. And — arguably most scurrilous of all — used his own brother Tommy’s death, for psychological manipulation. 

The second half turns directly to the ethics of this televisual fit-up, in which Diana famously spoke of there being ‘three of us in this marriage’.

In the first half, Jonathan Maitland lays out theMartin Bashir’s ploys to lure the wary Diana

Yolanda Kettle plays Diana as neither naïve nor a victim, but with quicksilver humour that cunningly keeps people guessing

The second half turns directly to the ethics of this televisual fit-up, in which Diana famously spoke of there being ‘three of us in this marriage’

In the wake of it, hypocrisy ran in all directions, like a box of rats. Bashir sought to justify his subterfuge, while the BBC first tried to distance itself — and then grovel with reparations, 25 years on.

Rather than ascend a high horse, Maitland dares to analyse Bashir’s motives. His lies may have undermined Diana’s testimony — but they also exposed something rotten in the House of Windsor. 

So was his deceit a ‘justifiable confection for positive consequences’?

That line itself is typical of a play that walks a tightrope of wit and wiliness and Maitland connects it with today’s world of ‘post truth’ and dodgy dossiers.

Cleverly directed by Michael Fentiman in-the-round, the characters circle and cross-examine each other, while keeping a complex story lucid and fluid.

The inclusion of music from Donizetti’s opera Lucia di Lammermoor (the one about a woman who murders her errant husband), is both sardonic and affecting, while white noise between scenes crackles like a bad conscience.

Crucially, in Yolanda Kettle they have a flawless Diana. Big blonde wig, tilted head, peepers circled with black eyeliner and laser-focused on her supplicants.

Instinctively mistrustful, she is neither naïve nor a victim, but has quicksilver humour that cunningly keeps people guessing.

Tibu Fortes’s Bashir, meanwhile, is an ambitious, smarmy creep. But he’s also driven by resentment at his BBC bosses and, of course, the size of his prize. 

Even Matthew Flynn’s Burrell, offering himself as a narrator, is caught between loyalty, guilt and the taint of having written his own book on Diana.

Bashir’s interview is now inaccessible to us, thanks to Prince William’s speech denouncing the BBC in which he claimed that the manner in which it was secured influenced what was said.

And yet, Maitland asks, is the final irony that in taking this stand, he has silenced his mother for good?

William’s view is not Diana’s, and thanks to this debacle, her perspective looks certain to remain a mystery. 

The Time Traveller’s Wife (Apollo Theatre, London)

Verdict: Call a Tardis!


The Time Traveller’s Wife has nothing to do with Doctor Who’s missus. For those unfamiliar with Audrey Niffenegger’s best-selling novel, the wife in question is an American sculptor called Clare whose relationship with cute librarian Henry is cursed by him vanishing, without warning, on bouts of involuntary time travel.

 The Time Traveller’s Wife has now become a musical containing songs by soul singer Joss Stone (pictured) 

The tale was made into a film, starring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams, back in 2009, and has now become a pleasant, if slightly under-seasoned musical, with thoughtful songs by soul singer Joss Stone and Dave Stewart of Eurythmics fame.

While Clare and Henry (played by Joanna Woodward and David Hunter), smile sweetly and sing persuasively, they are accompanied by dainty tinkling, cardiovascular drum thumping and ruminative piano — supplemented by rockier interludes and, at the end, a chorus of neo-gospel. 

Yet shimmying up and down scales, the music lacks the emotional heft the audience seemed to crave.

Bill Buckhurst’s warm-hearted production features impressive illusions by Chris Fisher (who also worked his magic on the Back To The Future musical) for Henry’s disappearances. 

And Anna Fleischle’s rotating set covers three decades of interior design — and the highs and lows of fashion.

Importantly, Woodward and her time-travelling hubby do enjoy some reasonable chemistry, if not electricity. (Hiba Elchikhe and Tim Mahendran, as Clare’s fun-loving friends Chrisse and Gomez, have a bit more crackle.)

Is it enough to make this show go intergalactic? I’m not sure. Maybe they should try hailing a Tardis.

Desperate housewife sent to the chair 


Machinal (Ustinov Theatre, Bath) 

Verdict: Electric drama 


Sophie Treadwell’s remarkable 1928 play Machinal is based on the true story of a New York housewife who bludgeoned her husband to death and was sent to the electric chair.

The playwright (also a war correspondent and suffragette) imagines what drove a young mother to murder and, decades ahead of its time, rages against the dependent, subordinate, menial status of women trapped in loveless marriages.

If ever a play lends itself to director Richard Jones’s stylised expressionistic treatment, it’s Treadwell’s highly-charged non-naturalistic battery of episodes in which little is told and everything shown.

In the opening scene (Jones’s invention) people are crammed, swaying this way and that, on a claustrophobic subway train. A young woman, feeling stifled, has to get out. Cut to an office and a clattering, frantic, harshly mechanical soundscape. 

One types, one files, one adds sums and the attractive switchboard operator holds several calls simultaneously, breathy one second, clipped the next.

Sophie Treadwell’s 1928 play Machinal is based on the true story of a New York housewife who bludgeoned her husband to death and was sent to the electric chair

Each two-dimensional character talks in snatched phrases, always on transmit and never on receive, automatons in the machine that is work. Except for the young woman, who is late again.

Rosie Sheehy is mesmerising as the young woman whose scattered thoughts — ‘fat hands… got to earn… don’t touch me… tell me, Ma’ — and choked voice create a much bigger picture of her increasing sense of entrapment and hopelessness.

The triangular stage itself, like the point of an arrow, seems quite literally to be forcing her into a corner.

Bilious yellow walls add to the nightmarish atmosphere. Strikingly the husband (Tim Frances) is not actively cruel but quietly oppressive and brutally insensitive. ‘You’ve got to brace up,’ he tells his wife, near catatonic following a traumatic childbirth.

A workman appears with a pneumatic drill, its vibrations deafening.

Doubtless the creation of her mind’s eye, but one of many images and noises that reverberate long after this outstanding production is over.

A blessing in disguise 


The Ungodly (The Avenue Theatre, Ipswich)  

Verdict: Spell-binding 


In this horror story it’s not ghosts that scare the living daylights out of us but humans: their bigotry, hatred and violence. 

The Ungodly is a new play by writer and director Joanna Carrick, performed in the studio-theatre of her Red Rose Chain company in Ipswich.

Its subject is the witch hunts of the 17th century, focusing on events in the nearby towns of Manningtree and Mistley, where Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General, began his misogynistic crusade.

The Ungodly is a new play by writer and director Joanna Carrick, focusing on the witch hunts of the 17th century

This painful tale builds slowly. A wealthy farmer and his wife lose a baby and put it down to God’s will. 

Then another dies, and another. A cow is sick, a horse stumbles and throws its rider. Suspicion replaces acceptance. Are they bewitched?

The wife’s brother, the puritanical Hopkins, feeds their paranoia. He points the finger at a group of local women whose ‘evil’ must be eradicated.

As the darkness deepens, what unfolds is far from a comfortable watch, but it’s thoroughly absorbing, not least because the audience of barely a hundred is so close to the action. 

Such immediacy is unforgiving for actors but the cast in this four-hander — notably Nadia Jackson as the grief-stricken wife — are faultless.

The Ungodly is a blessing in disguise, a demonstration of the excellence that a small, dynamic local theatre — not-for-profit and dependent on donations — can deliver.

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