It’s extraordinary that Princess Diana died 15 years ago, just as it’s extraordinary that it seems like a lifetime ago. Robert Farquhar’s latest in the Playhouse Studio looks back at the events through a fug of drugs, music and hazy nostalgia, as burned-out Britpopper Graham tries to make sense of those Summer days in 1997 when the nation seemed to take leave of its collective senses.

There’s something of a high-wire act to a one-man show – with so much material to remember, no help or breathing space from other performers and very little margin for error there’s a constant edge to proceedings.

With Francis Tucker as Graham we’re in safe hands: his twitchy Britpop-era has-been (who never was) instantly believable through the actor’s mannerisms. The scratching, twitching and snorting representing the singed synapses of a familiar but oddly-likeable archetype.

The role rarely allows for subtlety – it’s all speedy, 100mph, substance-fuelled train-of-thought – but Tucker’s can pull off abrupt switches from comedy to pathos. And while Di Is Dead is predominantly comedic it does strike a chord with the sort of public grieving we’ve seen recently in Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, though it’s fair to say that the country was not as united in grief – and bemusement at that grief – as when Diana died.

Again, the Playhouse Studio sees a perfect combination of venue, actor and writer. Di Is Dead is another perfectly-judged vignette at this perfectly-formed theatre.

Di Is Dead
Playhouse Studio
Until 27 April

Image by Brian Roberts

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