Rowling says farewell to Harry Potter

Author J.K. Rowling (above, centre) worked on the plot of Harry Potter And The Cursed Child with playwright Jack Thorne (left) and director John Tiffany.
Author J.K. Rowling (above, centre) worked on the plot of Harry Potter And The Cursed Child with playwright Jack Thorne (left) and director John Tiffany.PHOTO: REUTERS

It is the end of the road for J.K. Rowling and her creation as the play Harry Potter And The Cursed Child opens

LONDON • A new Harry Potter play that opened to swooning reviews and delighted gasps from the audience marks the end of the journey for the beloved, now middle-aged wizard, his creator J.K. Rowling said at the play's premiere in London last Saturday.

Billed as the eighth instalment in the series, the play Harry Potter And The Cursed Child and a book based on its script have helped awaken a new wave of Pottermania five years since the previous episode was made into a movie.

Throngs of fans crowded bookstores for the midnight release of the book, hours after the play in London's West End theatre district dazzled theatregoers with swishing capes, billowy wraiths floating overhead and illusionist tricks of actors appearing to vanish into thin air.

Harry Potter magic hit Asia yesterday as aspiring witches and wizards crowded into bookstores.

Some 200 fans rushed through the doors of Books Kinokuniya in Singapore's Orchard Road at 7.01am to become some of the first people in the world to see the new script.

Asked if the book and play heralded a new phase of stories, Rowling said: "No, no.

"He goes on a very big journey during these two plays and then, yeah, I think we're done. This is the next generation, you know. So, I'm thrilled to see it realised so beautifully but, no, Harry is done now."

Rowling later appeared on stage during a standing ovation at the end of the show.

The book Harry Potter And The Cursed Child is not a new novel, but a script of a play - a format that typically is not read for pleasure and almost never produces overnight bestsellers.

And unlike the previous seven books in the series, it was not written by Rowling herself.

In a sense, Cursed Child is more like sanctioned fan fiction than a new work by a beloved writer.

Rowling worked on the play's plot with playwright Jack Thorne and director John Tiffany, and while she helped shape the story, she has made it abundantly clear that she did not write the script.

The idea for the play, which explores Harry's life as an adult and parent, did not originate with her either: She merely agreed to it when two theatre producers proposed the concept.

But many Harry Potter fans do not care.

"J.K. Rowling's involvement legitimises it as canon and the fact that other people collaborated on it doesn't detract from that," said Mr Matt Maggiacomo, executive director of the Harry Potter Alliance, a non-profit group that promotes literacy and other causes.

Cursed Child picks up the story 19 years later, featuring Potter as a 37-year-old overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic and father of three.

The play, a marathon affair running over five hours and split into two parts, is sold out through May next year.

Enthusiasts from around the world queued outside the ornate Palace Theatre for a glimpse of Rowling and the cast of the production.

Many in attendance at the show said it lived up to its billing in reviews as a thrilling theatrical spectacle, with deft stagecraft that drew audible gasps at times.

Ms Kylie Cruikshamsks, 32, a Potter fan, said: "It was magical. I sat on the edge of my seat the whole time. There was a lot to live up to and they did it."

The play opens ahead of the November movie version of Rowling's Potter spin-off book Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them and follows the opening in April of a second Harry Potter attraction within a theme park, this time at Universal Studios in Los Angeles.

The writer said she found it easy to put Potter onstage, thanks to the vision for the show.

It "chimed perfectly with the material I had about the next generation and I could see it would work perfectly", she said.

"So, I never wanted to write another novel, but this will give the fans something special."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2016, with the headline 'Rowling says farewell to Harry Potter'. Print Edition | Subscribe