- By Rebecca Jones
- Arts Correspondent, BBC News
Actress Tuppence Middleton says she’s “woken up in the middle of the night” since rehearsals began for her latest play.
The 36-year-old actress, who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), says “anxiety” is to blame.
Middleton’s new play sees her portray Hollywood star Elizabeth Taylor in The Motive and the Cue, opposite Johnny Flynn as her husband Richard Burton.
The actress’ OCD means that one of her worries is kissing her co-star.
“Johnny and I have to kiss in this [play] and one of my obsessions is being emetophobic, which is the fear of throwing up,” Middleton told BBC News.
“And so I’m concerned about, ‘oh what if Johnny has norovirus’?”
Middleton developed OCD as a child and has spoken to the BBC about the hidden and “internal” impact it has on his career.
The start of rehearsals for The Motive and the Cue was particularly trying.
“The first day you meet everyone, and everyone shakes hands and I mentally note who I shook hands with, and then I have to remind myself while I’m talking to people that I have to go to me. wash your hands,” she explains.
As well as an intense fear of vomiting and concern for cleanliness and contamination, Middleton told One to One on BBC Sounds in 2021 that his OCD also manifests in obsessive mental counting and compulsive checking behaviors. .
But now, she says, “You find ways to deal with it as you get older and get used to it.”
What is OCD?
Obsessive compulsive disorder affects over 500,000 people in the UK. Sufferers can have anxious and intrusive thoughts and, like many medical conditions, OCD can get worse if left untreated.
OCD can be difficult to spot because sufferers may hide their symptoms due to feelings and thoughts of guilt, shame, or embarrassment.
There are common thoughts or behaviors that the sufferer may feel and can often know are irrational. These may include:
- a fear of disorder or contamination
- an intense fear of harming oneself or others
- intrusive or disturbing thoughts or images
- repetitive ritual behavior
Middleton has managed to build up an extensive resume of film and television work, notably in science fiction including Black Mirror and Sense8, and costume dramas such as the films Downton Abbey and War & Peace. She was seen recently in the ITV thriller Our House.
In The Motive and the Cue, directed by Sam Mendes and written by Jack Thorne, who also wrote Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Taylor has just married Burton.
The couple had met on the set of the film Cleopatra and had embarked on a passionate affair, while he was married to other people.
They caused a stir everywhere they went and in many ways became the first “celebrity couple”, long before Brangelina, Bennifer or Kimye.
Middleton says it’s hard for young people to understand now, almost 60 years later, “how famous they were”.
“They were kind of like exotic animals,” she says, “people wanted to be close to them.”
The play is set in 1964, when the two were at the height of their fame and Burton played Hamlet in an experimental Broadway production directed by John Gielgud.
“Every night throughout the run,” Middleton explains, “there were thousands of people on the street outside the theater and the roads were blocked.
“And that just wouldn’t happen now, because fame doesn’t have the same kind of pull.”
The Motive and the Cue is at the National Theatre: Lyttelton from April 20 to July 15.
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