| Dancers Zara Deakin and Sean Ganley rehearse for the ballet in Manchester. (Reuters)
London, March 8: Just a month before Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles get married amid bristling hostility, the 'People's Princess' has come back as though to haunt them.
Diana the Princess, a ballet choreographed by Danish-born Peter Schaufuss, was due to open at the Palace Theatre in Manchester. The English dancer Zara Deakin ' who is also Schaufuss's wife ' plays Diana. Normally, a ballet of this kind would attract little attention but the subject matter has guaranteed a high profile. 'There are TV crews downstairs and national press from Britain and abroad,' a spokeswoman for the theatre told The Telegraph. 'This ballet is a celebration of Diana's life,' she added.
That it might be but the intention of a section of the British press will be to play up the story with the intention of causing the maximum embarrassment to Charles and Camilla. From their point of view, the timing of the ballet, which has already been seen in Denmark, could not be worse. 'This is the British premiere,' the spokeswoman said.
In life, Diana was keen on ballet. As a child, she took lessons until she grew too tall. Later, the princess was a patron of the English National Ballet. 'Peter Schaufuss, who was with the English National Ballet, was a close friend,' the spokeswoman pointed out. 'When she was living at Kensington Palace in the mid-1980s, she would slip out to take some lessons.' Seven-and-a-half years after her death, Diana remains a potent symbol for the British, some of whom use her legacy as a weapon against Charles and, increasingly, Camilla, who is still held responsible by many for breaking up the royal marriage.
The theatre's description of the ballet seems remarkably anodyne: 'From the man who taught her to dance comes this heartfelt celebration of the life of Diana, Princess of Wales.
'Though his internationally renowned company, Peter Schaufuss brings his award-winning, breathtaking choreographic style to this production, which charts Diana's unique and remarkable life. With music by the Cure and Sir Edward Elgar, this production comes to the UK for the first time.'
According to the Daily Telegraph, however, the ballet canonises Diana, portrays her in-laws as 'open-mouthed fools' and Camilla as 'a dominatrix in jodhpurs laying into the Prince of Wales with a whip.' Diana and Dodi al Fayed, who died in the Paris car crash with her, 'are portrayed as saintly figures martyred by the British establishment'.
Schaufuss said sweetly: 'It's a very tasteful show, and I think if anybody is critical of it without seeing it, that's very unfair.' 'Of course it is a tragedy,' he told the paper. 'It started out as a modern fairy tale and sadly it ended the way it did. But I don't think there are any villains ' just circumstances.' The soundtrack includes extracts from the 1995 television interview in which Diana acknowledged her affair with former soldier James Hewitt and noted of Charles's ongoing relationship with Parker Bowles: 'There were three of us in this marriage.'
'She loved dancing and I think she felt very much at peace with herself in our studios because there were no photographers,' Schaufuss said. 'This went on for years and, thank God, everybody kept it a secret.'
Schaufuss acknowledged the plot was 'a very sensitive subject'. 'I would never have faced this tremendous challenge had I not known the person behind Princess Diana to the extent that I did, and I am proud that the ballet has become such a success and generated international attention.'
As for Charles, who was in Wellington, the New Zealand capital, today, he had to put up with banners which read, 'Death to the Monarchy'.
On most overseas tours, aspiring starlets or attention seekers try to kiss His Royal Highness.
As he visited a Wellington art gallery, he was cheered by several hundred people. However, one woman took off her shirt to bare breasts bearing the message: 'Get your colony shame off my breasts.'
Earlier, another bare-chested woman carrying a small child was removed shortly before the prince arrived. Police said both women had been charged with disorderly behaviour.
The prince will treat all this philosophically as an occupational hazard. The trend was started way back in 1980 when Charles was visiting Bombay and was given a kiss by the Bollywood actor Padmini Kolhapure.