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[Sonia] Friedman, [Colin] Callender, [JOHN] Tiffany and [JACK] Thorne had all agreed that the jumping-off point for the play should be the epilogue of Deathly Hallows. “We felt sure that the first scene of the play would be the final scene of the last book,” says John Tiffany.
“That came naturally.” But after making that leap, where would they land? At their next meeting, they looked again at what was happening in that final scene at the train station and who was present. To Jack Thorne, it was notable that Rowling had put Draco Malfoy’s son and Harry Potter’s younger son in the same year at Hogwarts: Clearly they were destined to meet and, like their fathers before them, would have an impact on each other’s lives. “And as soon as those two were together, it put the dual father-son relationships into relief,” says Thorne.
Tiffany and Thorne didn’t want a whole new story about getting to know Harry. “We wanted it to be about where Harry was now, and the scars that accompany him from that time,” says Thorne. “What happens to a kid when they don’t have any parental support, and they’re entrusted with the world? How do you come out of that with any sense of sanity?” They also wanted the plot to tie into something in Harry’s early life. “The story that Jack and I both loved was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” says Tiffany. “For the first time, the world opens. The characters are maturing and the world is expanding.” In wanting the drama to revolve around Harry as a father to Albus, Goblet of Fire offered another father-son relationship that would create a contrast.
“The scene of Amos Diggory, when he finds out that Cedric’s been killed, when Harry brings his body back, it’s just heart-wrenching,” says Tiffany. “The most unnatural thing in the world is to outlive your kid.” Cedric’s death would have left a deep impression on Harry in numerous ways. “That was the first death Harry was responsible for,” says Thorne. “Well, he wasn’t responsible for anyone’s death, but he took Cedric there. He was responsible in a Harry way.” The playwright also appreciated Goblet’s structure. “There’s three tasks,” he explains. “That’s very useful. Goblet had lots of stuff going for it. So, when we went up to see Jo for the first time, we went armed with that book.”
In April, 2014, Tiffany and Thorne flew up to Edinburgh to see Rowling. Tiffany remembers a moment of trepidation as he introduced Thorne to her. “Suddenly, I thought to myself, ‘What if they don’t get on?’ But within four seconds, I was like, ‘Hello? Hello?’” Rowling has said, “Jack’s just one of my people, I knew instantly. He’s phenomenal, emotionally understanding, and totally unafraid to go into the dark place.” Rowling brought them to her writing room, where their first meeting lasted the entire day. “Jack, John, and I knew what we wanted to do emotionally,” Rowling has said, “and we discussed ideas I already had about what might have happened next.” She explains further: “I was fascinated by Albus as I wrote the Deathly Hallows epilogue, and felt a real pull to go with him to Hogwarts.”
Tiffany and Thorne shared with Rowling their idea to make connections with both the plot and the emotional fallout of Goblet of Fire. “It’s Harry’s first death,” says Thorne, “and dealing with Cedric and what Cedric meant . . . It was a transformative year for Harry. So, what if we put Albus and Scorpius in that year, in their fourth year at Hogwarts?” Rowling has said, “The three of us developed this story together, always, I feel, with our eye on family, loss, what it means to be a father, and what it means to be the child of a very unusual father.” Thorne had questions for Rowling beyond what was in the books in order to be able to shape the story. “I think most of what I found out, and was excited by, I got into the play. Such as, what is Hermione doing now? You sort of knew that Harry was going to become an Auror,” says Thorne. “Where Hermione ended up was really fascinating to me.”
Thorne drafted a forty five page treatment, and conversations among the team continued, especially between Thorne and Rowling. “We kept talking, talking, talking,” says Thorne. “It was a mixture of ‘Could we try this?’ and her going, ‘Ooh, that makes me think of this.’ It was a constant deep-core ‘mining.’ The thing is to shake the author for as much information as possible because their knowledge is your secret weapon, and their knowledge isn’t always on paper. “And this is not hyperbole: She is without doubt the most supportive writer I’ve ever worked with,” Thorne states. “Not that she would say yes to everything. It was in the way she would guide and help and be there.” Thorne and Rowling would bounce ideas back and forth on email when he wrestled with something. “She consistently made it easy and not seem like it was the hugest job in the world, which of course it was.” Thorne revised his treatment several times before it went to script, constantly rereading and circling back to Goblet. “Most times during this process, a writer delivers a draft, you give them notes, and you get the next draft,” says Colin Callender. “And it’s one step forward and two steps back. Well, Sonia and John and I would give notes to Jack, and every time the next draft would be an advance—it never went back.
Every draft, the play got better and better.” As the story development progressed, Thorne and Tiffany realized that—much like the epic adventures of the Harry Potter novels—the adventure they were crafting with Rowling for the play went beyond the scope of the typical stage production. “So we went to Sonia and Colin, and they said, ‘Why don’t you do it in two parts?’” Tiffany recalls. “We didn’t think through any of the practical implications at the time, which we have since had to embrace for all its complexity,” says Callender. “But we didn’t even think twice about it.”
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: The Journey, by Jody Revenson, publishes today in both the UK and US.