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Most of us can name that one book or movie that has a special place in our hearts since we were young. Perhaps it related to what we were going through when we first read it, or it gave us some guidance, or it made us fall in love with the characters, or, in general, it became a friend. For me, the first time I picked up Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (all of my friends were raving about the fourth movie, which was coming out at that time) was IT. THE defining moment. Not only did the books encourage my imagination to run wild, but thanks to them I started reading more… and soon enough I realized how much I enjoyed writing as well. And that was ten years ago.

 

So yeah, pretty defining.

 

And then the news comes out.

 

The news that this defining book series, which, since the end of the last movie, has survived in the hearts of many through theme parks, through JK’s wizarding snippets on the Pottermore website, through Twitter discussions and through uni clubs (Surrey proudly being one of them) that insist on organizing Quidditch tournaments, is getting not one but TWO sequels.

 

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts I & II, is a reality – and both plays are soon coming to Shaftesbury Avenue (nod to the seventh book, where Hermione reveals that she used to go to the theater there with her parents).  The eighth installment will be performed at the Palace Theater, premiering on the 30th of July 2016 with performances running through to May 27, 2017 (at the moment).

 

Based on what I have deciphered from a generic description that has been going around, the story will take place nineteen years later and will be centering on Harry (now a responsible working husband and father) and his young son, Albus Severus. Harry has to grapple with not only adulthood, but also his traumatic past, which (as the description cryptically mentions) comes up again in some sort of way. In the meantime, his son is struggling to deal with his family legacy and, in the end, darkness still threatens the family, although this time it is much more unexpected.

 

Thanks JK. Now we know.

 

Despite the fact that the plot of the upcoming story is shrouded in mystery, the new HP has started off with a bang. First of all, JKR is breaking away from the block-buster world of everlasting sagas (think every superhero revival ever) that often sacrifice quality for a box-office success. Remaining true to herself, she chooses the more under-the-radar medium of the stage to bring her characters back to life. Not only that, but she also very consciously approved the casting of actors of different race than the original movie actors. As one might predict, our favourite trio (Daniel, Emma and Rupert) will not be reprising their roles as Harry, Hermione and Ron; instead, the parts have now been given to Jamie Parker, Noma Dumezweni and Paul Thornley respectively.

 

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Additionally, this does not feel like another special effects triumph. The visual challenges have always made the movies interesting and maybe overshadowed the story at times, but this time it feels more personal – more about the characters maturing and exploring a different territory than they used to. The ideal scene at the end of the last movie, with the picture-perfect families waving goodbye to their children, is shattered; it transforms from the perfect fairytale ending to the beginning of a new chapter in the real world. Harry is an adult, who needs to deal with the violence of his past and the consequences of his victory (something I wish will be explored), but he also has to deal with his role as a husband, father and employee of the Ministry of Magic. Theatre seems like a more mature medium, a better platform to explore more mature characters.

 

However, we all fell in love with the idea of Harry as this young kid, sleeping in the cupboard under the stairs and jumping around in the living room to catch a letter from the owls that were flying all over the place to his uncle’s dismay. The play will probably maintain the innocence and playfulness that the youth of the characters always gave the books through Albus Severus. What is it like being Harry Potter’s son? What is it like carrying the names of two very distinguished individuals? It seems like too much for a small kid – like he has been defined already. Not only has his dad been a very famous wizard since he was young, but even the choice of his names brings in mind different characters from the books. All this precedent seems to be depriving Harry’s son from the clean slate Harry had when we first met him as a character. Maybe I’m ranting… Or maybe JK has some of these issues in mind.

 

Finally, just in case you cannot secure a ticket to the two performances, the play’s script is also coming out this summer, on Harry’ birthday (July 31), bound and ready for you to delve in. And to comfort you further, November 2016 welcomes the much-anticipated spin-off focusing on Newt Scamander (played by the wonderful Eddie Redmayne) and his fantastic beasts, running wild around New York. It is definitely worth checking out, if only just to hear the word ‘No-Maj’ or to hear people with American accents pronouncing spells. I have to admit, I cannot wait!

 

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Further information on casting, plot synopsis, performance dates, etc. is available from:

The Play’s Official Website

Or simply through Pottermore.

 

Photos (first and second) via @HPPlayLDN ; photo (third) via @jk_rowling. This article was first printed in the May 2016 issue of ‘The Stag’, the magazine of the students of the University of Surrey.

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