As sure as robin sightings in spring, awards seasons bring with them stories about who was “robbed” of an Oscar or Tony or Emmy nomination and which stars can’t seem to get arrested, as if their very popularity worked against them. Exhibit A: Daniel Radcliffe.
Nobody ever worked harder to shed the skin of the character that made him famous around the world than this gifted actor, forever stamped in the global consciousness as Harry Potter. Since also shedding his clothes in the 2009 revival of Peter Shaffer’s psychodrama Equus, Radcliffe has appeared in three Broadway shows, each one showing off a different set of thespian attributes: Serious Young Actor (Equus), charming hoofer (How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, 2011) and Sympathetic Physically Challenged Principal Player (The Cripple of Inishman, 2014). Each one a gutsy choice and admirable performance — with nary a Tony nomination, let alone award, among them.
Which brings us to today’s announcement of Radcliffe’s latest election to the boards: He will lead the cast of Privacy, spun off the the revelations from Edward Snowden’s leaks of National Security Agency emails, at the Public Theater this summer. The play, by James Graham (the book for Finding Neverland) and Josie Rourke, originated two years ago at London’s Donmar Warehouse, where Rourke is artistic director, and she will repeat here as director in the new production, which also has been Americanized. Radcliffe (who might have found another place in cinema history as a farting corpse in the controversial Sundance film Swiss Army Man) will play The Writer in an ensemble that includes ex-Saturday Night Live cast member Rachel Dratch, Michael Countryman, Reg Rogers, de’Adre Aziza and Raffi Barsoumian playing politicians, journalists and technocrats. The play, Rourke told the BBC, is a “risk-taking, fun and stimulating piece of theater” that “pushes the boundaries of audience experience.”
Coming in the wake of the Panama Papers data dump, Privacy couldn’t be timelier. Flouting convention, audience members are urged to leave their mobile phones on during the performance.
“Personal privacy in the modern age – when all our wants and fears can be monitored and monetized as we share more than we have before – is, I believe, one of the most crucial issue of our time,” Graham said in announcing the production. “I can’t think of a more appropriate venue to launch Privacy than, paradoxically, the Public to get people together in a physical space to discuss both the opportunities and the perils of this new technology and our life online. And by incorporating our audience’s phones into the show itself, rather than denying their existence, we’re hoping to create an experience and stimulate debate unlike anything people may expect from a play.”
Privacy begins July 5 in the Newman Theater, opens on the 18th and is scheduled to run through August 7. Of course, shows from the Public lately have had a way of making their way uptown (Hamilton, Fun Home, Eclipsed) — so maybe there’s another Tony possibility for Daniel Radcliffe in the offing.