Sonia Friedman, Jack Thorne, J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Colin Callender, at the opening night of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
Saturday 30th July 2016
Lights, cameras, fans. It’s time to launch the world premiere of the eighth Harry Potter story, set 19 years later.
A bright red carpet snakes around the Palace Theatre. It’s crowded on either side by rows of fans, some of whom are clutching their original copies of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The odd famous person wanders through the throng. Jessica Brown Findlay, from Downton Abbey, walks by gracefully. Andrew Scott, Sherlock’s Moriarty, poses in a bright turquoise shirt. Fantastic Beasts actor Dan Fogler arrives.
Even the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is here. Is he a Harry Potter fan, I ask?
Sadiq Khan at the red carpet premiere of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
‘Big fan, yeah. I’m really looking forward to today,’ he says. ‘Particularly looking forward to seeing Hermione and how she is, twenty years on. I think she’s a bit different to the Hermione that we knew. I can’t wait to see how Harry and Ron have aged.
'I re-watched Deathly Hallows this week so I’m up to speed on what’s going on. To have the world premiere in London is really important to us.’
And then she arrives.
It’s obvious when someone first spots J.K. Rowling; the screams and whoops start as soon as she places a single shoe (elaborate, gold, butterflies at the heel) on the carpet. She stops, talks to fans and pauses by a gaggle of reporters by the entrance.
I ask J.K. Rowling how she’s feeling right now, moments before the world premiere of her first ever stage play.
‘I’m very excited,’ she says. ‘It’s been a long time since I’ve been at a Potter premiere and this is quite special.’
It’s special, in part, because J.K. Rowling asked her fans to keep the secrets of the plot and they have lovingly, dutifully obliged. She’s proud, she tells us, that they’ve behaved so respectfully.
‘It is the most extraordinary fandom so, you know, I’m kind of not surprised because they didn’t want to spoil it for each other but I am so happy we got here without ruining everything.’
J.K. Rowling’s ambitions, as always, are meaningful. Her books coaxed reluctant kids, teenagers and adults into the habit of reading – and she’s hoping to do the same now with theatre.
‘What we’d really like most of all is to bring people into the theatre who’ve never been to the theatre before,’ she says. ‘I will be so proud to think that kids from my kind of background, who didn’t come from particularly theatre going families, might learn what theatre’s all about through this show. That would be incredible.’
With minutes to go before the curtain raises, J.K. Rowling walks along the final stretch of the red carpet, stops for a photo with director John Tiffany and writer Jack Thorne, and continues inside to see the eighth Harry Potter story live on stage.
Jack Thorne, J.K. Rowling and John Tiffany.
As she turns to leave, she stage-whispers one last thing: ‘The book’s out tonight at midnight’.
Until then, we have some special behind the scenes footage from the actor who plays Albus Severus Potter. This comes specially from Sam Clemmett.
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