As the mind behind both hit shows, How to Live a Jellicle Life: Life Lessons from the 2019 Hit Musical Cats and Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story, Linus Karp is a fan favourite for his works. Taking them back to the Edinburgh Fringe for August this year, even more audiences are invited to join in the fun and madness combo that comes from the productions.
Giving more backstory into what to expect, Linus has told us about the pieces, and the inspiration for creating them.
Please could you tell us a bit about each of the shows you're bringing to the Edinburgh Fringe this year?
Hello! I’d love to!
Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story is a comedic and queer reimagining of Princess Diana’s life that follows her through the events we all know - but with a twist… The show combines drag, multimedia, puppetry, song, dance, and a lot of audience participation to give us something that’s simultaneously wildly ridiculous and a loving celebration to the People’s Princess and what she achieved in her tragically short life.
how to live a jellicle life: life lessons from the 2019 hit movie musical ‘cats’ is the kind of lesson that should be on everyone’s curriculum - through a PowerPoint presentation unlike any other, you’ll learn how you can make your life more jellicle and be more like the jellicle cats from the cinematic masterpiece Cats (2019). The show doesn’t require any previous knowledge about Cats - but spending too much time online is definitely a bonus.
With both pieces being mixed media, how did you make sure to get the right balance of audience interaction in the script, alongside screen work, and your own dialogue?
I want my shows to feel like a live experience - I like theatre where you as an audience member are part of it and each show is unique, it’s not going to the cinema. I love audience participation when done right, once a supportive and fun atmosphere is established it’s amazing how on-board people can get. The main reason for the level of both audience participation and screen work in Diana is that I wrote a big show that I then have to find creative ways of staging - at least until I get my full cast West End budget show. I am also very easily bored as a person, and I want to ensure that my shows are engaging and entertaining throughout - something I feel can be a particular challenge with solo shows where you don’t have the energy of other performers. Hence, I use every weapon in my arsenal - be it scary puppets, videos, audience members or camp pop songs.
What was the reasoning behind choosing to become Diana, and why did you want to reflect her life in a comedic way?
Having some physical resemblance definitely helps! I think there are two other key reasons - her status as a queer icon being one. The fact that she supported and fought for AIDS patients at a time when society closed its eyes to them made a massive difference to so many queer lives and she really helped change people’s views on it. The other thing that fascinated me is how Diana today is more of a myth and a legend rather than an actual human being. Today she has many dedicated meme pages to her and there are many conspiracy theories surrounding her - many people have their version of Diana, be it the true one or not. Creating my own version of Diana and give her the narrative I wish she’d had.
What do you think Diana herself would say about the show?
Having toured the show, the biggest compliment is always when someone comes up after to say “Diana would’ve loved this”. Diana had a great sense of humour and an appreciation for the queer community - I think she’d have a great time at our show, and particularly like how we portray her ex-husband and his new wife.
Why did Cats interest you as a source of parody, and what appeal does this have to audiences?
I have so much genuine love for the film Cats. I saw it in the cinema, having never seen the musical beforehand, and it changed my life. I could not stop thinking about it, talking about it, reading about it, watching it and listening to the soundtrack. It wasn’t really a choice making a show about it - it would’ve been impossible for me to make a show about anything else. The show is a loving celebration of one of the biggest cinematic flops of all time - you don’t need to know anything about Cats beforehand to have a good time. Though the amount of people who’s now said they’ve watched Cats after having seen the show has grown long - Universal should really start paying me…
What has been most challenging and joyous about bringing your work to the stage, and how have the pieces changed since you first performed them?
Money. Money is always the biggest challenge. Making small scale work is expensive and I’ve never had a production company or a producer behind me - it’s always a challenge to make it work financially. The most joyous is the connection with the audience. Nothing beats the spontaneous surprise moments you get during the show with the audience. Both shows have toured quite a bit so it’s been great to hone them and make them even better and more ridiculous as they’ve gone along.
Are there any particular stand out audience interaction moments that you've had and can share?
Overall, I am so impressed with how much people are up for it and just go for it - it's so much fun! I do think York wins when it comes to enthusiasm though - we had an older woman miming fellatio on stage and a man cartwheeling. It was incredible and very unexpected - true Di-cons.
How has making your productions grown your own identity and sense of self?
Making my shows has made me more comfortable and confident in my queer identity and it's made it clear for me what type of work I find important. It's also given me so much more confidence as a person - knowing I can step on stage and hold an audience captive for an hour on my own has made me less anxious for many other situations in life.
Who would enjoy watching your shows?
Hopefully Princess Diana herself. Besides that, I make shows that I myself would love - so the target
audience is queer weirdos who spend too much time online. Though it's also been amazing to see
the range of people who've enjoyed them - I've had people in their 80's telling me they'd had a wonderful time. You don't need any previous knowledge of Diana or Cats, I think you just need to be up for a good time!
Which elements of taking on the Fringe are your favourite, and why?
I love the atmosphere and the creativity that surrounds you everywhere. It's so much joy - to meet such a range of creatives from such a range of places is so wonderful - and getting to experience it all with my creative partner/jellicle choice Joseph makes it all the more special. That, and the multiple breakdowns.
Big thanks to Linus for his contributions to this, and congratulations on all your successes in exchange for everything you've put into your shows - they are a true reflection of the fringe spirit. Best wishes for taking them forward!
Edinburgh Fringe dates:
Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story (2nd-14th, 17th-20th, 22nd-28th August)
How to Live a Jellicle Life: Life Lessons from the 2019 Hit Musical Cats (17th-20th, 22nd-27th August)