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Jack Thorne

Jack Thorne interview: 'Potter fans – they’re good people, forward thinking'

We chat to the prolific stage writer about the treatment of disabled people, the terrifying nature of sex and telling the story of the world's most famous wizard

By Andrzej Lukowski
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Jack Thorne is one of Britain’s most successful writers for stage and screen. His projects include the ‘This is England…’ TV show and the forthcoming West End theatre monolith ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’. His current show is ‘The Solid Life of Sugar Water’, the first National Theatre show for disabled-led theatre company Graeae.

How did you first cross paths with Graeae?

‘When I was in my early twenties I spent six months bedbound with a condition called Cholinergic Urticaria that basically means I’m allergic to heat, including my own body. It was bad. I was still in quite a lot of pain and not quite sure if I was a disabled person when I met Jenny [Sealey, Graeae artistic director] at some do or other, and she said I should come to a Graeae away day. It was just very freeing, being surrounded by people who are just like me, people with invisible disabilities.’

You’re a very successful writer now; was it a case of finding time to do something for them?

‘No no, I wrote a play for them before that, they just didn’t like! It was more finding something that I believed in that they believed in.’

‘The Solid Life of Sugar Water’ is a very sexually explicit drama about a couple – does that stuff come easily?

‘Try watching it beside your mum! I don’t find that stuff hard to write, I do find it very hard to talk about. I find sex quite terrifying and I tend to write quite a lot about the terrifying nature of it.’

Are we living in a more progressive era when it comes to disabled people?

‘We’re living in an age where disabled people are being treated worse and worse and worse, and the way this government thinks it’s appropriate to treat disabled people is becoming increasingly inhuman.’

Jack Thorn

Potter fans – they’re good people. I’m working on doing the best for them that I can

Is there a common thread to your work? What if anything links ‘Solid Life…’, ‘This is England’ and ‘Harry Potter’?

‘There tends to be somebody quite awkward in the middle of it, that’s what I tend to bring, an awkwardness, and someone looking for an answer of sorts.’

Were you intimidated by the ‘Harry Potter’ gig?

‘It’s been a long process but from the very beginning with Harry I felt like I knew how to tell the story. Maybe it was doing [the hit stage adaptation of vampire novel] “Let the Right One In” with John [Tiffany, “Cursed Child” director], that idea of doing magic onstage. That’s a beautiful thing. And I was a massive fan of the books, I know that there’s a way into that that I can find.’

There was a big brouhaha about the casting of Noma Dumezweni, a black actress, in the role of Hermione Granger. What’s your take on that..?

‘I didn’t have much abuse directed toward me, most of what I have encountered is real support so it’s been wonderful. I’ve had bigots come after me before on Twitter, but I certainly didn’t for that. Potter fans – they’re good people, forward thinking. I’m working on doing the best for them that I can.’

‘The Solid Life of Sugar Water’ is at the National Theatre until Mar 19.

More on 'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child'

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Harry Potter (Jamie Parker), Albus Potter (Sam Clemmett), Ginny Potter (Poppy Miller)
© Charlie Gray

'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child' guide

Theatre Children's

Hungry for more Harry Potter characters, tales and magic? If you thought the adventures of JK Rowling’s boy wizard had ended with ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ then rejoice! Read our guide here to all the big ‘Cursed Child’ news, because one thing’s for sure: it’ll be the biggest theatre event of the decade.

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