When Theatre Meets Fandom: Audience Reviews of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

The 2016 launch of the stage production Harry Potter and the Cursed Child presented fans with their final opportunity – the first in nearly a decade – to reunite with the characters of their beloved series. Running in London’s West End since summer 2016 and due to transfer to Broadway in 2018, Cursed Child presents an unusual case-study of what happens when an author working in other media chooses to revive their own storyworld only onstage. This makes it the ideal focus point to explore what happens when theatre and fandom collide. The play script was also published in book format, and quickly became the fastest-selling theatre script since records began. But what did audiences themselves make of this dual rebirth? This article explores how the live performance and the playtext were received by fans as very different forms of afterlife. This has prompted important questions about access. Presented with an extension to their beloved storyworld after so many years, what happens when Harry Potter fans found themselves unable to actually take part in this new theatrical experience? And to what extent was the publication of the script a fair compromise in return for audiences’ undying loyalty? This question has taken me on a journey from the specific example of Cursed Child to a more general exploration of fan-led efforts to democratise access to exclusive live events.

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