Story by JK Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne
Play by Jack Thorne
When Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was first published in 1997, who would have thought that the story of a boy wizard and his plucky friends would spawn five more novels, each denser than the last, a record-breaking series of movies and a number of spin-off books written to benefit Comic Relief? Moreover, would JK Rowling have imagined that her broomstick-based sport Quidditch would be realised and re-invented as a real game with an international tournament, that one of the aforementioned spin-off books would be adapted into a hugely anticipated new film to be released this Christmas, that countless children and adults would credit the stories from the wizarding world with shaping their personalities and friendships?
Along with the theme park, the video games and the announcement that two new books would be joining the ranks of the spin-offs is the play, conceived by a story magicked up by Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany and written by Thorne. Like the hysteria surrounding the release of the original series of books – fans dressed as their favourite characters in cheerful wait at bookshops around the world for the witching hour to strike and the chance to get their wands on the latest copy – the play’s script was released, coinciding with its first performance of the show, which is sold out on the West End for the foreseeable future.
A number of disappointed Potterheads were confused when faced with their copies, with many taking to Twitter and other social media outlets to vent their frustration over being duped by the promise of a sequel to the final book. How they got their wires crossed is anyone’s guess, considering the publicity and controversy surrounding the casting – Shock! Horror! Hermione is being played by a black actress! – but aghast they were, even more so when they were faced with a script format rather than the story-book style they were used to. Well at least I knew what I was facing when I finally got my copy, and so dove into it with the knowledge that while Rowling was involved in the plotting, the writing was down to a newcomer to the wizarding world.
Jack Thorne is an experienced and well respected playwright and screenwriter, with on-screen credits including the lauded This is England series. A gritty, raw and rather hard-edged programme, This is England seems at first a million miles away from the world that Harry and his chums inhabit. But the themes are actually quite similar; friendship in adversity, being born into an environment you have no control over, and suffering a myriad of family issues just grazes the surface. There is great heart behind both series’, which fans of both will know, and Thorne’s knack for characterization certainly helps in introducing the next generation of the Potter, Weasley and Malfoy clans.
Cursed Child takes place about twenty years after the Battle of Hogwarts and the great Harry Potter is now Head Auror (magical law enforcer), married to Ginny and father of three kids. It’s middle child Albus’s first time boarding the Hogwarts express, and his surly protestations belie his anxiousness of being sorted into Slytherin House. In the same position is his cousin Rose – daughter of Hermione, who is now Minister for Magic, and Ron, who runs a joke shop, but she takes after her mother in her eagerness to get learning the ways of the magical world. The two meet lonely but hopeful Scorpius Malfoy, who Rose dismisses but Albus befriends. And so begins a play that spans three years forward and about 25 years back, with the help of an outlawed time-turner, a cunning plan by a devious villain in disguise and an outcome that could change all of their futures immeasurably.
It’s a well-paced, well thought out story, if borrowing a little heavily from Back to the Future: Part Two. Fans will be overjoyed to find out what happened next to the three best friends, and will accept and welcome the next generation happily. There really is all of the magic of the original, with enough twists and intricate plotting to please any nay-sayer. From reading the stage direction I guess it would be a great spectacle, and those who have secured tickets to see the play are lucky indeed. For the rest of us who will have to wait, or the sceptics who have been avoiding it, I’d say give it a go. Rowling’s original manuscript was famously rejected by twelve publishing houses before going to print – and we all know how that turned out.
Aoife B. Burke
First Published in The Tuam Herald on 07 09 16