Saturday 30th July 2016
Tonight the curtain goes up on the gala opening performance of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. But Pottermore was there the first time the cast and creative team got together in one room, in February this year…
The actors, director, writer, producers, set, costume and lighting designers, composer, movement director, illusionist, special effects director, and author J.K. Rowling.
We were standing in a cavernous rehearsal space scattered with props and framed on either side by a half-constructed set. Noma Dumezweni (Hermione) whispered jokes to Paul Thornley (Ron). Jamie Parker (Harry) stood quietly in his Ugg boots and there was just something indelibly Harry Potter about his stance. The crew chattered and the child actors sat nonchalantly as though their lives weren’t about to change forever.
At about 11 o’clock, we were all herded into a higgledy-piggledy circle on the stage. It’s a theatre tradition to get together like this at the beginning of a new production, go around the circle and have everyone introduce themselves: ‘My name’s Steven and I’m in charge of movement.’ ‘Hi, I’m Paul and I play Ron.’ ‘I’m Christine, set designer.’ And on and on.
When the circle of induction finally reached J.K. Rowling she said, ‘I’m Jo... Well, you know what I did.’
There was a long, sweet, earnest pause as we all stopped to think about exactly what she has done and why we were all here. Excitement unfurled across the party.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story – the story that fans have wished, dreamed and begged to have since Deathly Hallows. It’s an adult life for Harry, Ron and Hermione that, until now, we’ve only been able to imagine for ourselves. They’re really back.
Here we were, on the cusp of knowing what happened next. Live and in the West End, no less – the beating heart of the theatrical world. It was, and is still, astounding.
J.K. Rowling has always enigmatically said ‘never say never’ when asked about the prospect of a new Harry Potter story. ‘…Until these two came to me,’ J.K. Rowling said, with a look of fond incredulity toward producers Sonia Friedman and Colin Callender.
It was Sonia and Colin, of course, who did the unimaginable: They helped J.K. Rowling to bring her characters back and released them on stage, in a two-part play directed by the brilliant John Tiffany. Together they assembled this group of gifted creatives – starting with writer Jack Thorne.
‘None of this would have been possible without that man,’ J.K. Rowling said, as she pointed across the room to Jack, a very tall man trying to hide behind two much shorter women. He beamed at her with a sweet modesty that belied the gargantuan task he had just completed. Jack is, after all, the only person in the world who has been trusted to write Harry, Ron and Hermione back into life.
To the people in this room, back in February, the first performance of that beautiful, funny, terrifying script was months away, and rehearsals started ten minutes later. Today, it’s a remarkable reality.