“Harry: ‘I’ve never fought alone, you see. And I never will.'”
In the eighth instalment of Rowling’s wonderful wizarding world, Harry Potter reminds us that among a sea of darkness, there is always a light.
Set 19 years after Voldemort’s destruction at the Battle of Hogwarts, this play – co-written by J.K. Rowling, experienced writer Jack Thorne and veteran theatre director John Tiffany – is a beautifully nostalgic yet refreshingly unique chapter in the Potter Saga. It begins in a profoundly familiar location: King’s Cross Station, London, and from there details the adult lives of our three original heroes – Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. Yet time has moved on, and it is their children that now take centre stage.
Harry has three children: James (confident, brash and mischievous), Lily (intelligent, popular and outgoing) and Albus Severus – quiet, troubled and different. Beginning with Albus’ first year at Hogwarts (coincidentally also Rose’s, the highly ambitious and intelligent daughter of Ron and Hermione), trouble soon strikes, but not in its usual form. Albus is simply sorted into the wrong house: Slytherin.
Historically the house of villains – Voldemort included – this is not the correct place for a Potter to be. Yet in Slytherin he is placed. An immediate outcast, Albus soon befriends Scorpio, the similarly isolated son of Draco Malfoy, Harry’s old adversary. The action moves quickly through the years from this point, spiralling further and further downwards into a fraught relationship with his father and tragedy in Scorpio’s life. The two boys only have each other, until Harry is paid a visit by an old man and his mysterious niece: Delphi.
The man is Amos Diggory, father of the boy murdered by Voldemort in the Triwizard Tournament in book 4 (worry not, even if you haven’t read the books or seen the films, the story is still fairly easy to follow). Dying and desperate, he reaches out to Harry, (now Head of the Department for Magical Law Enforcement), for one last pitiful appeal: rumours are circulating that the Ministry of Magic (the government of the wizarding world) has a Time Turner, a magical object that allows users to travel back in time. Diggory wants Harry to travel back and save his son.
Torn and tormented, Harry refuses to comply, aware that doing so could rewrite the future and irrevocably change its outcome. Yet Albus, eavesdropping and eager to carve an identity out of the shadow of his legendary father, is curious. His curiosity leads to action.
Full of enchanting magic, monsters and mystery, this play (currently being performed in London, though good luck getting tickets!) is a mesmerising revival of my childhood fascination with the wizarding world. Packed with complex narrative, settings and characters, it does not disappoint as the next instalment in the saga. I admittedly had my reservations about the concept of Harry Potter as a play, and it certainly provides a different reading experience. The transition between scenes is rapid, with constant action, leading to a fast-paced drama that occasionally whirls along too fast – I had to re-read more than a few scenes!
The dialogue is well crafted – albeit cheesy in certain passages – though reading Harry Potter as an adult is a wholly different experience to a child’s. The stage directions are perhaps the most fascinating – continually ambitious and imaginative – though I’d be intrigued to see how they’re achieved on stage.
All in all, I could tell that it wasn’t just Rowling’s work – the feel of it is different, though not necessarily in a bad way. It’s an exciting and refreshing piece, a treat for both long-standing and new Potter fans alike, and provides wonderful escapism in an increasingly scary reality.
I would encourage all of you to read it – especially if you grew up with the stories like me; you won’t be disappointed. Ultimately it reminds us that despite tragedy, disaster and grief, hope will always survive. To quote Albus Dumbledore, the namesake of this play’s protagonist and a wizarding hero:
“Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”