Returning to Finsbury’s Park Theatre with a legacy of gripping and audacious drama already under his belt, former investigative journalist and acclaimed playwright Jonathan Maitland stages his newest play about the notorious Martin Bashir/Princess Diana Panorama programme in collaboration with director Michael Fentiman and Original Theatre.
Arguably the event which still epitomises the word scandal in the royal vocabulary, the BBC broadcast, which aired on the 20th of November in 1995, was witnessed by hundreds of millions around the world. From HRH’s struggles with postnatal depression and bulimia, to Prince Charles’ adulterous relationship with Camilla Parker-Bowles, Diana’s interview was explosive in its revelations, inciting a media circus decades in the making and yet to come to an end.
In the world of news media, nothing is objective and everything has a spin. Beset by forgeries, gag orders, defamations, and scapegoats, news is a game where only the biggest opportunists win. Maitland’s script approaches these ethical dilemmas with a delicate and unwavering empathy while maintaining an inquisitive nature throughout. Over the course of The Interview, Maitland’s audience must learn, alongside Diana, that even our most trusted sources will use the news against us if it’s to their profit. The precarity of Diana’s situation echoes throughout the show with the question “what does Martin Bashir actually want?” Who actually has Diana’s best interest in mind and who is only there for her when the situation is convenient? Who is the master and who the puppet?
The show’s production design mimics this unease, invoking the isolation of Diana’s life in the royal family through the stage’s bare yet commanding presence, set only by the light and sound of memory. Lighting Designer Emily Irish immerses the stage in a fog of memory, forming a ghostly dreamscape that is equal parts desolate and suffocating. Yolanda Kettle (Princess Diana) and Tibu Fortes (Martin Bashir) swim across the stage like polaroids mid-shake, perfectly embodying the estranged realism of their larger-than-life characters. Kettle’s Diana is nuanced and empathetic without being sappy, while Fortes’ Bashir maintains an undaunted ambition mixed with a genuine care for his vision of the truth. Yet, Bashir’s vision doesn’t stand alone.
Maitland plays with this notion of truth throughout The Interview, interrogating the hypocrisies at the heart of those on the hunt for the truth, those selling a story, and the institutions which act above both impulses. In an effort to ground the story in our era of fake news and hyperpartisanship, Maitland’s dramatic inventions are often contextualised by snippets of broadcast footage throughout the decades. Act 2 even immerses you in Lord Dyson’s 2020 inquiry into Bashir’s editorial conduct when acquiring Diana’s consent for the interview. Generally, The Interview draws poignant parallels to our fractured present, probing at our comforts as much as our disillusions with the media’s honesty.