How much do we give away and how much do we keep of (and to) ourselves? It’s a question that arises when you’re writing a regular blog or conversing frequently, as I do, on Twitter; you’re effectively giving permission to the world to have (a little bit of) access to your life. But you can and do ultimately control just how much you give away.
On Sunday evening, for example, my partner (now husband) and I threw a private party in London to celebrate our wedding that took place in New York this summer, and also our respective birthdays earlier this month. Afterwards, I decided not to tweet the guest list, though some were performers and producers whose work I particularly admire but more importantly I also value as friends. (Stick around this business long enough and you inevitably forge friendships with actors whose work you follow closely enough).
I felt that they came as individuals, not for what they are famous for doing, and I chose not to give their presence away. But I did tweet a little about the cabaret: I was particularly proud to have Howard Goodall, my favourite living British composer, join Emma Williams and Michael Xavier, the original leads form his musical Love Story at Chichester and in the West End, come to reprise a couple of songs from that show, as well as another song from The Dreaming, one of my favourite of Howard’s shows that he wrote for youth theatre productions.
I was also thrilled to have Dougal Irvine, a younger composer who is emerging on the scene, alongside them: together, Howard and Dougal represent exactly what I like to support: established and new composers.
Of course, living publicly via twitter puts you in the public eye a bit. I’m regularly approached nowadays in public and find myself being ‘clocked’ as never before. I may not see it, but they’re watching: just the other day, someone tweeted at the last night of Sweeney Todd (that I was attending as a fan and a civilian, having bought my tickets to be there), “Just spotted @ShentonStage at The Adelphi #starspotting”. He reported this on Twitter but didn’t make a direct approach; after the show, two more people from Twitter actually introduced themselves.
Twitter interactions that lead to real live ones are an enjoyable part of twitter. I also enjoy the playfulness of Twitter at other times; just the other day, Rupert Goold tweeted before the first day of a workshop of Made in Dagenham, “Right, showtime for Made in Dagenham today. We have songs, we have singers, all we need now is @Shentonstage and we can call it a musical.”
But public attention isn’t always quite so welcome, especially for celebrity actors. In an interview in The Observer last Sunday, Juliette Binoche was asked about a new film she’s appearing in with Robert Pattison, and the interviewer commented, “He’s been going through a tough time.” Binoche replied:
Well I witnessed Jude Law going through hell as well - it can be a nightmare when people have to deal with their intimacies in public. It’s not respectful, so I felt for him and for her [Kristen Stewart] as well.
She spoke about guarding her own privacy rigorously, and said:
Each time there’s been some sort of tabloid trouble I’ve attacked out of principle and I’ve always won because that’s the law here - you’re not supposed to be bothered by photographers … All these stories, it feels like being in a bad soap opera all the time. You feel like you’ve got to resist that stupidity. It’s very weird.
But Binoche has also got some sympathy for journalists, too, and says, “I have good friends who are journalists. I think being an actor is not very far from being a journalist. Because you investigate, you try to understand, you’re asking questions, you’re interested in the other.”
And there seems to be an insatiable public appetite for interest in stars that the whole culture of celebrity journalism both feeds off and is fed by. Just the simple act of being in the public eye seems to involve a surrender to its demands. The recent controversy over the publication of pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge sunbathing topless, as any civilians on a private holiday on a private property might expect to be allowed to do without prying photographer eyes, proves that they are being watched even behind closed doors.
As someone who, on a far, far more limited scale, knows that I’m now being watched when I’m in public, too, it’s disconcerting. It can’t be fun if you’ve got something to hide, or even in the Duchess of Cambridge’s case, something you’d rather not show.