A guide to Princess Diana in theatre

The late Princess Diana has been a hugely popular public figure for decades — learn more about her love of theatre and how she's portrayed on the stage.

Marianka Swain
Marianka Swain

Princess Diana remains a subject of enormous fascination for playwrights and filmmakers. That’s hardly surprising: The late Princess of Wales, first wife of Charles III and mother to princes William and Harry, was a pivotal royal figure, and her story passed into tragic legend when she died at just 36.

Multiple actresses depicted Diana on screen, including Serena Scott Thomas in Diana: Her True Story in 1993, Naomi Watts in 2013 movie Diana, Kristen Stewart in 2021’s Spencer, and Emma Corrin in hit Netflix series The Crown, followed by Elizabeth Debicki, who returns to the role for the show’s final season.

But Princess Diana isn’t just confined to film and TV: She’s been portrayed on stage too, such as in the conspiracy-theory play Truth, Lies, Diana in 2015. The buzziest recent example is the Broadway musical Diana, which is coming to the U.K. in a new concert form starring Kerry Ellis, Maiya Quansah-Breed, and Denise Welch. Read on for our guide to Princess Diana in theatre – plus all the London shows about Diana that you can book for now.

Princess Diana’s passion for theatre

The original link between the late People’s Princess and the stage stems from her own life. Diana had a lifelong passion for dance: she took ballet and tap classes as a child. Later, as depicted in The Crown, Diana was a big fan of the West End musical The Phantom of the Opera, and even (it’s believed) recorded her own cover version of “All I Ask of You” as an anniversary gift for Prince Charles, going so far as to rent the stage and wear full costume.

Princess Diana also made a more public declaration of affection for theatre when she partnered the famous dancer Wayne Sleep in a performance set to Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl” at the Royal Opera House during a 1985 Friends of Covent Garden gala event. It was another surprise for her husband – although, according to some reports (and The Crown’s depiction), it didn’t go down well with Charles.

Shows about Princess Diana

Considering Diana's real-life theatrical interests, it's apt that she is now a popular subject of plays and musicals. Learn more about shows about Princess Diana on stage now, and book tickets.

Diana The Musical

The most high-profile and comprehensive staging of Diana’s story comes in David Bryan and Joe DiPietro's new musical. The pair have musical theatre credentials: Bryan, the keyboard player for Bon Jovi, previously teamed up with DiPietro to create the Tony-winning Broadway show Memphis and the Off-Broadway show The Toxic Avenger.

They premiered their new musical, Diana, in February 2019. Christopher Ashley, who directed the musical, previously collaborated with Bryan and DiPietro on Memphis and won a Tony Award for Come From Away.

Following Covid-related delays, Diana finally opened on Broadway in December 2021, playing for 49 total performances. Netflix released a filmed version of the show internationally in October 2021, immediately giving Diana a further life.

The show follows Diana’s life from the moment that the Queen encourages Charles to court her; through their wedding, parenthood, affairs, and other difficulties in the marriage; to Diana’s activism and finally her tragic death. Songs range from the sardonic (“The Worst Job in England”) to romantic ballads and memorable revenge numbers (Paul Burrell encouraging Diana to don her “f—k you dress”).

The musical developed a dedicated cult following despite its short Broadway run. Now, Diana has another chance to capture new audiences in a hugely anticipated concert production at London’s Eventim Apollo. West End legend Kerry Ellis plays Diana (with former Six queen Maiya Quansah-Breed as her younger self), and Denise Welch plays Elizabeth II. It’s a right royal must-see.

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The Interview

This new play at the Park Theatre dramatises an unforgettable, but now highly contentious, TV interview. In November 1995, Martin Bashir grilled Princess Diana about her life for the BBC’s Panorama programme – and 200 million people worldwide heard her say of Charles’s affair with Camilla: “Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”

It was the tipping point for Charles and Diana’s disintegrating marriage, and a landmark moment in which a member of the royal family spoke so frankly about their private life. The plot thickens further: It was recently alleged that Bashir lied to Diana, using forged bank statements as “proof” that people close to her had been paid to spy on her – stoking her paranoia.

It will be fascinating to see how playwright Jonathan Maitland revisits this contentious event in The Interview. Maitland's previous modern-history dramas include Dead Sheep, An Audience with Jimmy Savile, and The Last Temptation of Boris Johnson. It’s particularly timely as we once again talk about the role of the BBC and what the public has a right to know.

Book The Interview tickets on London Theatre.

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Peter Smith’s Diana

Over at the Soho Theatre, there’s a rather different approach to Princess Diana in this new one-person musical spectacular. Comedian, performing artist, and musician Peter Smith turns their razor-sharp gaze on the late royal in this packed cabaret show, evoking the blonde icon while also analysing our enduring fascination with her.

Diana features music, dance, monologues, lip sync, and comedy as it, too, revisits that life-changing interview. The show also looks at wider topical issues such as celebrity and pop culture worship, bodily autonomy, mental health issues, and our strangely intimate relationship with people we’ve never met.

The show premiered at Ars Nova in New York in 2018, and now Diana comes home to make its U.K. premiere. Among all the depictions of Diana on stage right now, which will take the crown as your favorite? You may have to see them all to decide.

*Photo credit: Diana The Musical. (Photo courtesy of production)

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