I WAS devastated to discover last weekend that Miranda Hart is
killing off her TV comedy show Miranda. There are now only
two episodes left of this anarchic gem. Hart's reasoning for
bringing the party to an end is unexpected: she does not want her
Miranda persona to attract pity. As she gets older (the real
Miranda has just had her 42nd birthday), the fictional Miranda
becomes less of a gawky young thing who just might be transformed
into a swan (if only Gary got round to declaring himself properly),
and more of an irredeemably pathetic aunt. The feminist Hart does
not want to condemn the screen Miranda to this fate.
I wonder if she is being disingenuous. It is, after all, always
better to end with the audience wanting more. And, besides, the
real Hart is an accomplished actress, as we have seen from her
portrayals of Chummy in Call the Midwife and the
fag-smoking char in Not Going Out. But, whatever new
opportunities Hart is seeking, I suspect that the killing off of
Miranda is more than a career move. It is more likely that she
feels the need to detach from her greatest success before she is
swallowed up by the character she has invented.
There has always been a reticence about Hart which is unusual in
today's screen stars. She does not communicate with her fans
through social media. She refuses to say much about her personal
life at all (even in her autobiography). You get the impression
that she does not want to be too well known; that her comic
inventiveness requires a life apart from the character she
Many stars attempt this, but then, given the chance of a
publicity interview, they fall into role, gush too much, and let
their vanities and anxieties be known too openly. Once the fires of
public curiosity are stoked there is no way back. It is, alas, but
a short step to the indignity of appearing on Strictly or,
worse, I'm a Celebrity . . .
Those in public life could learn from Hart's example. Reticence
is an underrated virtue. It is not quite the same as privacy,
because it does not mean hiding from people, but, rather,
cultivating a reflective aspect of the self so that there is a
difference between the publicly available persona and the real
person. Comics burn out quickly. There is medical evidence that
they die earlier than their comic foils (think of Eric Morecambe
and Ronnie Barker).
Hart is right to have a place in herself which is
incommunicable; which gives her a chance to produce something new
out of silence rather than be reduced to an endless repeat and
parody of what she is now.
The Revd Angela Tilby is Diocesan Canon of Christ Church,
Oxford, and Continuing Ministerial Development Adviser for the
diocese of Oxford.