The Interview review – Park Theatre

Image above: Yolanda Kettle as Princess Diana and Tibu Fortes as Martin Bashir in The Interview; Pamela Raith Photography

A new play by Jonathan Maitland ⭐⭐⭐⭐

What’s the point of doing a play about a TV interview? Wouldn’t you just watch the TV interview?

That’s kind of the point of The Interview, the new play by Chiswick resident Jonathan Maitland which opened at The Park theatre in Finsbury Park on 27 October and runs until 25 November.

The interview between Martin Bashir and Princess Diana in which she famously declared ‘there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded’ is no longer available to watch. What is arguably the most important interview the BBC has ever done, and the most significant TV interview of the 20th century is not being shown any more by the broadcaster because the interviewer was discredited.

Two years ago an inquiry concluded Martin Bashir had tricked her into doing it, using falsified bank statements to worm his way into her brother Earl Spencer’s confidence. Prince William said it should never be aired again, expressing his sadness that ‘the BBC’s failures contributed significantly to [Diana’s] fear, paranoia and isolation’.

The BBC’s Director General Tim Davie issued an apology to Diana, Charles, and their children and agreed that the interview would never be broadcast or licensed again.

READ ALSO: Interview with Jonathan Maitland about The Interview

Image above: Yolanda Kettle as Princess Diana, Tibu Fortes as Martin Bashir and Matthew Flynn as Diana’s butler Paul Burrell in The Interview; Pamela Raith Photography

A TV interview from nearly 30 years ago with something important to say about today’s cancel culture

William’s argument was that ‘the deceitful way the interview was obtained substantially influenced what my mother said’ but The Interview challenges that assertion. Martin Bashir, played very convincingly by Tibu Fortes (who you can also see in the latest series of Shetland) argues she was going to say what she said anyway, it was just a matter of the timing.

It is worth revisiting. It goes to the heart of cancel culture and whether it is right that when someone is ostracised because of their behaviour their whole body of work becomes invalidated. It reminds us of the truth of the situation between Charles and Diana and Camilla, which the royal family wanted so desperately to be swept under the carpet and tidily forgotten in time for the coronation.

It is an interesting and thought-provoking play, stylishly directed by Olivier Award nominated Michael Fentiman (Amelie, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Loot). Yolanda Kettle (Persuasion, Howards End) looks and sounds uncannily like Diana, though I think she employs the doe-eyed anxious head tilt a few too many times. I’m sure Diana had other expressions as well. Matthew Flynn (Finding Alice, Pride) is also very well cast as Diana’s butler Paul Burrell, who acts as the narrator.

Image above: Ciarán Owens, Naomi Frederick, Matthew Flynn in The Interview; Pamela Raith Photography

Freedom of speech is under attack from all quarters – what can and cannot be said about Israel and the Palestinians, what can and cannot be said about womanhood, to name two obvious current examples.

The Interview is a timely reminder that freedom of speech is precious and not to be given up lightly, pointing out the irony that the son of a woman who stood up for herself and spoke out, breaking the taboo on talking about mental health and revealing the way the powerful institution of the monarchy operated, has been able to shut her down and silence her now that she is no longer able to speak for herself.

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