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Rowling to produce new Potter play

- Plot will hark back to boy wizard’s early years living with the Dursleys

London, Dec. 21: J.K. Rowling has revealed she is to co-produce a new play about Harry Potter’s early years before he went to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and became batchmates with Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger.

Rowling will not the write the words herself but news of her involvement will be very encouraging for London’s theatre land which is still in a state of shock after the collapse of the ornate ceiling inside the Apollo in Shaftesbury Avenue.

As a result of the collapse, a hugely money-making production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time has had to be suspended.

There is no shortage of Harry Potter fans in India but they had better starting making plans to come to London in 2015 when the new play is expected to premiere with no doubt suitable glitz, glamour and magic.

The project is being put together by prominent London and New York producers Sonia Friedman and Colin Callender, whose immediate task will be to appoint a writer to work closely with Rowling plus a top-notch director.

The plot will hark back to Harry Potter’s early years living under a staircase with the Dursleys, his only known close living relatives.

Rowling herself confirmed the project by explaining the background: “Over the years, I have received countless approaches about turning Harry Potter into a theatrical production, but Sonia and Colin’s vision was the only one that really made sense to me and had the sensitivity, intensity and intimacy I thought appropriate for bringing Harry’s story to the stage.”

“After a year in gestation, it is exciting to see this project moving on to the next phase,” added the author whose seven Harry Potter novels have sold 450 million copies in 77 languages and turned into eight movies that have grossed $7.7 billion.

(Rowling has also written The Casual Vacancy, a novel for adults, published in 2012, which has had only modest success.)

She said: “I’d like to thank (Harry Potter movie studio) Warner Bros for their continuing support in this project.”

She offered an intriguing synopsis of the prequel: “What was it like to be the boy in the cupboard under the stairs? This brand new play, which will be developed for the UK 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…”

This suggests that Harry Potter’s best friends may yet be worked into the story line.

Nothing is being left to chance and there is an experienced team behind the play. But a large enough venue has to be found.

However, between now and 2015, London’s 40-50 odd theatres will have to be checked for safety and necessary repairs carried out — at considerable expense because many of the buildings are, at least, 100 years old. Currently, those responsible for running the theatres are trying to put a brave face on the ceiling collapse at the Apollo and describing it as a rare one off accident.

But they have been undermined by the Apollo’s previous owner, (Lord) Andrew Lloyd Webber, who sold the venue to the current proprietors, Nimax Theatres, in 2005.

Lloyd Webber is best known to Indians as the man who collaborated with Shehkar Kapur, “discovered” A R Rahman and put on the musical Bombay Dreams at the Apollo Victoria Theatre (not to be confused with the Apollo Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue) in 2002.“The Apollo (in Shaftesbury Avenue) in particular is a shocking place,” he had warned. “I suggested that both it and the Lyric should be knocked down and replaced by top-quality modern theatres.”

The composer and musical theatre impresario complained that his plans for black-box auditorium inside the existing plasterwork had been opposed by English Heritage.

When it listed the building in 1972 as “Grade II”, the public conservation body cited the Apollo’s “richly ornamental shallow domed ceiling on pendentives” as one of its stand-out features.

This is part of the very structure which has collapsed.

Incidentally, Lloyd Webber’s just opened new musical, Stephen Ward, a society osteopath from the early 1960s, has a role for the then frisky president of Pakistan, Field Marshal Ayub Khan (played by actor Jason Denton). He had apparently “delighted in crossing the line of control” with English good time girls Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies.

This is currently playing at the Aldwych Theatre in London, not even five minutes’ walk from the Indian High Commission and 20 minutes from the Pakistani mission.

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