Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a New Play, Not a Prequel

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J.K. Rowling has once again announced plans to further expand the ever-expanding Harry Potter universe, but this time she’s leaving the books behind. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a new play that will grace the London stage sometime in 2016, and the one thing she wants you to know is that the play is not a prequel.

Seriously. She really, really, REALLY wants to make that last point clear.

While Cursed Child may not be a prequel – that seems to have been a rumor that emerged before the announcement was made official – it’s otherwise unclear what the show will actually be about. Rowling has only said that the production would be well suited to the medium, indicating that it will likely be a more intimate affair than the effects-heavy films or the sprawling books that travel to multiple locations.

That news does offer some intriguing possibilities. Like most fantasy worlds, the Potterverse is only as interesting as the characters that populate it, and Hogwarts would feel empty without the richness and complexity it gets from people like Neville Longbottom and Albus Dumbledore.

However, there’s never enough time to fully explore the motivations of other characters in dense books that are primarily about Harry. The theater space, which usually offers fewer settings, less action sequences, and more dialogue, could give us a deeper look at a small number of characters and offer an emotional expansion rather than an expositional one. Rowling has said that Cursed Child will be official canon, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will add a lot of new trivia that hasn’t already been established elsewhere.

It’s also worth noting that while Rowling is heavily involved as a producer and collaborator, she did not write the script for the new play. She’s partnering with writer Jack Throne and director John Tiffany, a strong creative team with a proven theatrical resume (they recently worked on a stage adaptation of Let the Right One In) but with less experience shepherding one of the largest pop culture franchises in the world.

There’s sure to be interest in any reveals emerging from the production, but there are a limited number of seats in a theater and most Harry Potter fans won’t be able to make it to London to see the show. With that in mind, I doubt Rowling would drop a narrative bombshell that most fans will only be able to glean through spoilers. The wiki is typically not the best way to experience Harry Potter.

Whatever Cursed Child turns out to be, I suspect it will be a smaller, more contained drama rather than an entirely new chapter in the Potter story. That’s what the medium does well, and it could prove to be a fascinating way to explore with the world of Harry Potter.

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