It was announced on Wednesday that the script of ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ will be published on Sunday 31st July, the day after the world premiere of the new play in London’s West End. The publishers Little, Brown have confirmed that a special rehearsal edition of the script is being printed in response to massive public demand from fans around the world followed by a definitive collector’s edition at a later date. Set nineteen years after the Battle of Hogwarts, Harry Potter is now an “overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic” while his youngest son Albus “must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted”.
Lots of novels have been adapted for the theatre but it’s unusual for an original sequel of a series to be published in the format of a script. Few details have been released so far but Rowling has said that the reasons why the stage is “the only proper medium for the story” will definitely become clear. Despite Rowling repeatedly stating that ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ is not a prequel (it’s set nineteen years after Harry has left Hogwarts) and not a novel (it’s a play), I still have the feeling that some readers are expecting something that it’s not and might be disappointed. Many have been referring to it as the “eighth Harry Potter book” which it is in the sense that it’s the eighth official title but this particular phrase seems to deliberately neglect mentioning that it’s a script rather than a novel. Moreover, as Claire Armitshead pointed out in The Guardian this week, the story is a collaborative effort between Rowling, scriptwriter Jack Thorne and director John Tiffany while the play itself has been written by Jack Thorne alone.
Plays are ultimately written to be performed rather than read and they are deliberately open to vast amounts of interpretation in terms of stage direction. Rowling’s writing tends to be very descriptive and Thorne’s script is likely to feel very sparse in comparison. On the other hand, the chief executive of Waterstones, James Daunt, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I challenge the notion that plays aren’t a fabulous, an extraordinary, thing to read – that bloke Shakespeare wrote a few that were worth it, and indeed many of our modern playwrights do too.” It will be interesting to compare the rehearsal edition of the script with the definitive collector’s edition and I’m also intrigued that the play has two parts which can be seen on the same day or on consecutive evenings.
Overall though, I have high hopes for ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’. Rowling has always been very closely involved in all official Harry Potter side projects including the film adaptations and unlike the release of another high-profile literary sequel by Harper Lee last year, there are no doubts that this latest project also has her full approval. It’s a smart move for Rowling to explore Harry’s story further in a different format in collaboration with others without the pressure of producing a full-length novel on her own.
Unsurprisingly, the first round of tickets for the play sold out last October faster than you can say Expelliarmus. More dates have been added until next year although the play could easily run indefinitely such is the massive demand for all things Potter-related. Starring Jamie Parker as Harry, Noma Dumezweni as Hermione and Paul Thornley as Ron, previews begin on 7th June and the play will open at the Palace Theatre on Saturday 30th July, the day before the script will be published.
Will you be reading the ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ script book? Have you got tickets to see the play in London?