Daniel Radcliffe stars in the ‘chilling’ Privacy at the Public Theater, New York
While Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is urging its audience to #KeepTheSecrets, Daniel Radcliffe is Off-Broadway starring in a play that exposes just how the lid has been comprehensively taken off any individual or collective sense of privacy. Nothing remains secret anymore. Radcliffe, an actor whose entire life has been spent in the public gaze, stands in for playwright James Graham as he researches the subject for the production we are watching – and he ends it by making a plea for us to keep the play’s surprises private, too.
Privacy is a very meta piece of theatre, and also a highly interactive one. It asks its audience to keep mobile phones switched on throughout, inviting us to take and submit a selfie, for instance. An onstage researcher gleans information about some of us from our online lives.
Since it premiered at London’s Donmar Warehouse in 2014, the issues raised by Privacy have only increased in urgency and traction. The age of mass surveillance of our lives envisioned by Orwell has truly arrived, with our iPhones not only tracking but also recording our every movement.
A video appearance by Edward Snowden lends added authenticity and Josie Rourke’s production has been comprehensively overhauled since its debut, with the narrative around the author’s own journey through this data minefield more hauntingly personalised. In this way it reminded me of some of Robert Lepage’s own autobiographical shows, something amplified by the use of Duncan McLean’s brilliant projections.
Radcliffe acquits himself well – as the only actor among the cast of six to play the same person throughout, he emerges more fully formed than the rest of the versatile company, combining amiability, vulnerability and curiosity.