Yesterday we learned that J.K. Rowling is co-producing a Harry Potter play for London’s West End.
An announcement from Team Rowling came on Friday morning in the form of a Facebook post on the author’s official website.
So far we know that this Harry Potter stage play, which won’t be penned by the author, will explore the title character’s life before he entered Hogwarts. The description as provided by Rowling’s people reads, “What was it like to be the boy in the cupboard under the stairs? This brand new play, which will be developed for the U.K. theatre, will explore the previously untold story of Harry’s early years as an orphan and outcast. Featuring some of our favourite characters from the Harry Potter books, this new work will offer a unique insight into the heart and mind of the now legendary young wizard. A seemingly ordinary boy, but one for whom Destiny has plans…”
What was Harry up to in those years before Hogwarts?
After being placed at the doorstep by Albus Dumbledore in 1981, Harry was essentially a prisoner in the Dursley family home. He was never told about his magical abilities because Vernon and Petunia wanted him to live a life as a muggle. Harry watched from his cupboard under the stairs as his elders showered their son Dudley in gifts and good care. Dudley and Harry went to school together, and the latter was often bullied on the playground by his cousin.
According to the Harry Potter books, there were a few instances in those ten years that Harry used his magic. One time Petunia cut all of Harry’s hair, then overnight he grew it back after being frustrated by the cut. On another occasion Dudley and his friends were chasing Harry at school when he magically transported himself onto the rooftop.
These tidbits don’t open up potential story lines that a play could focus on, so Rowling will have to introduce us to other aspects of his childhood that she hasn’t made references to before.
Here are some of our ideas for what could be included
1) The enemies: A supporter of Voldemort can keep an eye on Harry from a distance as he goes to and from school. This will have to involve more than one Voldemort follower so that they can talk about their intentions.
2) The family: The Dursley family’s hatred towards Harry – and their decision to keep him unaware of his own magical powers – can be explored. What are Vernon and Petunia doing to keep the Wizarding World out of Harry’s eyes? And just how crazy is Petunia? And on a related note…
3) Harry’s unintentional magic: Whether it was magic he performed unknowingly or the times he bumped into wizards and witches who wanted to meet him, we’d like to see how Harry reacted to any sort of magic.
4) Dumbledore and Hagrid: What are they doing during this time? We’d like to see them towards the end of the play as they try to get Harry’s Hogwarts letter into his house.
5) Hermione and Ron: These two kids obviously exist at the same time as Harry, so could we see their early lives as well? The Weasley family could inject some much-needed magic into the play and also offer endless fun moments between the red-headed family members. On the Granger side, we could see how she came to learn about her magical abilities and how her parents reacted to the news.
6) The ending: We’d like to see this Harry Potter play end with Hagrid uttering his most iconic line, “Yer a wizard, Harry.” If the story brings us to this point, we could see Dursley’s attempts to hide Harry’s letters from Hogwarts and his eventual discovery of them. This would offer an iconic climax.
But still, a problem lingers
We think our ideas would appeal to Harry Potter fans, and we understand that they’re not major arcs that could fill a story.
But there’s an even bigger problem: How can this play appeal to a wide audience? Or are they simply accepting that they can’t hit a mass market with this? Even casual Harry Potter fans will be less-than-enthused with this concept unless Rowling is going to tell us that she’s dropping a ton of new information that shaped who Harry became. Then again, Rowling isn’t writing this play like she is the Fantastic Beasts movie script.
Many questions have yet to be answered, so for now we’ll stay cautiously optimistic.
Thanks to the Harry Potter Lexicon for intel on Harry’s pre-Hogwarts years. Additional contributions by Jeremy Baril and Michal Schick.