Everyone remembers where they were when they heard the news that Princess Diana had died back in August 1997, just as they do with JFK or the Twin Towers; it’s a key moment in history. Highly publicised in the press, we’ve all read about the speculations and conspiracy theories surrounding the tragic accident… or was it?
Jon Conway has written a new ‘factional’ drama Truth, Lies, Diana based around new information he has uncovered regarding the death of the Princess and asks you to make up your own mind based on the facts. Before it hit the stage at the weekend, there was already a great deal of hype in the media and with a controversial subject matter, it was obviously going to divide opinion. I must confess I have always been intrigued after reading various articles over the years but I went with an open mind, believing them to be just conspiracies.
Not only written by Conway but he also stars as the lead Ray, a playwright who has conducted his own research and uncovered secrets surrounding the death of Diana and information that the ‘men in grey’ have tried to hide, he is striving, through a new play, to bring these facts to life – a sort of art imitating life. He puts a strong case forward and openly asks the audience at the beginning to raise their hand if they believe it was simply a tragic accident. Few put their hand up. The question isn’t merely ‘was she murdered?’ but ‘Do the establishment always tell the truth?’ For support of his argument he uses recent examples of the Hillsborough disaster and The Leveson Enquiry, where cover-ups have been exposed.
Ray is married to soap star Suzy (Kim Tiddy) who he is totally devoted to but is fighting his own demons and as he gets caught up in a web of paranoia and lies, his personal life starts to unravel and he begins to suspect Suzy is having an affair. He paces around his living room, revealing all of his information and findings on the inquest as if cross examining the evidence, characters walk in and out playing their parts, including Australian John Morgan (Barry Bloxham) whose book ‘Diana Inquest: The Untold Story’ provides the foundations for Ray’s investigation.
There is some cleverly thought-out casting with Maurice Thorogood playing all of the Establishment characters; the judge, MI5 and his psychiatrist, becoming a symbol for all that is untrustworthy. Constantly up lit, he takes on a pantomime villain persona and with the final line of the play you half expect a ‘Mwahahaha’ to follow. However some of the characters back stories do feel a little underdeveloped and I would have liked a little more depth; Suzy has cheated and Ray is back having psychotherapy however as an audience member, empathy feels a little lacking.
There are some shocking revelations, notably the suggestion that James Hewitt (Fred Perry) is Prince Harry’s father, who was widely discredited in the press, perhaps a smear campaign by the ‘men in grey’. There are also specific excerpts from transcripts and statements from Mohammed Al Fayed, Paul Burrell, driver Henri Paul and members of the police, some of which haven’t been released into the public domain before. It’s definitely a topic that sparked many debates in the interval.
Conway uses the stage as a platform for his theory, he is careful with certain facts to offer as a suggestion and not to explicitly give details. This ‘factional’ drama is performed in a light hearted manner and he makes reference to his work for the Chuckle Brothers and at times there are a few ‘Dad jokes’ thrown in, but ultimately he has a strong argument concluded from meticulous research into the inquest and you can’t help but listen to the facts. Conway has stood up against his critics and said his purpose was ‘not to disturb Diana but to attack the people who didn’t tell the truth,’ to make clear the obfuscating coincidences. It’s up to you to decide.
Truth, Lies, Diana runs until 14th February at the Charing Cross Theatre.
Reviewed by Becky Usher