Twenty years after her death, Princess Diana remains a legendary figure. Playwright James Clements’ In Her Own Words: The Diana Tapes is an entrancing look at the creation of Diana: Her True Story, Andrew Morton’s best-selling book about the doomed princess.
Diana was a woman who gave birth to a future king – Prince William — and lived much of her life in the glare of the spotlight.
Beautifully played by Ana Cristina Schuler, Diana is seen as a deeply troubled woman who describes her unhappy marriage to Prince Charles as well as her numerous suicide attempts and struggles with bulimia to close friend James Colthurst (Jorge Morales Pico).
Colthurst plays the tapes of their conversations for Morton (Clements), whom Diana hand-picked to tell her story. “People will read this and know that I suffered,” says Diana, who believes readers will be able to overcome their own problems if they learn about what she had to endure. Diana may have come off as self-absorbed, but her recollection of visiting a man dying from AIDS shows she had great empathy for other people.
Meanwhile, cynical publisher Michael O’Mara (Sam Hood Adrain) dreams of huge profits from sales of Morton’s book. O’Mara also anticipates the impact the book will have on the British royal family.
Clements portrays Morton as a mercurial man who is prone to temper tantrums. Although he has tremendous sympathy for Diana, Morton also sees a chance to gain some fame for himself. Morton became a very famous man after the book went on to sell over seven million copies in 80 countries. For Diana, the book’s publication ultimately shattered her marriage to Charles. Just as she seemed to have found happiness with another man, her life ended in a Paris tunnel after a car crash.
The success of this production is due to the effective performances of Schuler and the other actors, who let us understand why Diana was such a fascinating cultural figure.
In Her Own Words: The Diana Tapes runs through July 2. What Will The Neighbors Say. SEG Hub, 10 Davol Square, Providence. For tickets, artful.ly/store/