On Harry Potter’s 25th anniversary, the West End cast of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child remember their first time falling in love with the novels that changed the world
This summer marks the 25th anniversary of Harry Potter’s debut in print. Dreamt up on a train ride and written by J.K. Rowling in the early 90s, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published by Bloomsbury in June 1997 on a short run of hardback copies. Twenty-five years, seven books and eight film adaptations later, the boy who lived is easily the most famous wizard of all time.
With Harry’s legacy now continuing on-stage in J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany’s blockbuster West End show, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, we asked the cast to share their memories of discovering the magic for the first time. From speed-reading over friends’ shoulders at the back of the class to missing your stop on the tube, no one forgets their first trip to Hogwarts…
Dominic Short (Albus Potter)
“My older brother had a box set of the first four books, so I borrowed the first one from him. My dad and mum read a chapter to me before bed every night, and that’s where this whole thing started for me.
“I remember my Dad queueing up for hours outside a supermarket at midnight before the final book was released. We were going on holiday the next day and I spent the first two days sat inside devouring the book. I also remember getting into fierce arguments in the playground about who the Half-Blood Prince really was. I remember reading as fast as I could, just to avoid having it spoiled. I would go to bed early and read until my parents told me to go to sleep, then I would read by torchlight until two or three in the morning. I was absolutely exhausted but I just couldn’t stop.
“I also read the books at roughly the same age as Harry was in each one, so it really felt like we were growing up together. He was going through the same difficulties that every child goes through, but he was also having to defeat Voldemort at the same time… which made my problems seem a lot more manageable.
“I read all of the books again in lockdown and I even had a go at reading them in French (but I only managed to get to La Chambre des Secrets). This world has played such a large part in my life so it really feels like a nice full circle to be pretending to shoot spells out of wands on stage every night, just as I did in my makeshift Hogwarts cloak when I was eleven…”
Susie Trayling (Ginny Potter)
“I think my little sister first convinced me to read the books. I try to channel the spirit of her when I play Ginny… younger sisters are excellent.
“I probably got into the world of Harry Potter when Prisoner of Azkaban was published. I have strong memories of reading one of the books as a passenger on a long car journey. I couldn’t read in the car without getting car sick, but I also couldn’t wait to finish the book, so I found a way to lie down on the back seat which meant that I didn’t feel too sick. I kept having to pause but I also couldn’t put it down.
“I re-read the books during my first rehearsals for the show too, which was helpful. But I also re-read them all during that first lockdown of 2020. I found it difficult to read anything new, but the world of Harry Potter was both familiar and comforting to me. Yes, there was a lot of darkness and danger in that world, but, as Harry says in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, “I’ve never fought alone you see, and I never will”, and I found that enormously comforting. Harry faces some huge and daunting obstacles, but he doesn’t have to do it alone.”
Luke Sumner (Scorpius Malfoy)
“My Dad read the first book to me at bedtime when I was a kid and I really remember loving Thomas Taylor’s cover illustration of a mischievous Dumbledore at the back and Harry, bewildered by the big, red Hogwarts Express.
“I actually dressed up to queue at midnight with my best friend (I was Harry and he was Voldemort) to buy the final book. We brought our own homemade wands and everything. I would love to say lots of other people did, but we were quite conspicuous.
“My brother had round glasses and people used to call him Harry Potter – I think my Mum wishes he’d auditioned for the films because she could have retired a lot earlier. I remember taking turns with him to read the copy we both shared. If you put it down, you took the risk of not having it back for the next few days.
“I loved how the world felt enormous and mysterious but also familiarly British in its characters and humour. Seeing the wizarding world through Harry’s eyes made me feel special, like I was attending Hogwarts too. I remember reading the section about Snape’s memories in the back of my family’s car at night and catching sentences under the glow of streetlamps, not being able to take my eyes off the page.
“I feel immensely lucky to be part of this company and to be able to bring this world to life onstage every night. For me, the books champion choosing love over fear, and remind us about the importance of empathy. The books have brought together so many people who might not otherwise have found each other and I think that community is a beautiful thing.”
Phoenix Edwards (Rose Granger-Weasley)
“I was born in 2000 so by the time I was old enough to read the books, Harry Potter was already huge. My mum bought the first book for me when I was 10 though, and I read them all pretty quickly after that. I spent a lot of time in the library at school reading – I actually had a Year 11 kid tell me a massive spoiler when she saw I was reading the third book and had to force myself to try and forget it as I continued to finish the series.
“There was a massive second craze amongst children my age because of how popular the films were, especially as that series was coming to a close. I loved reading the books so much that I didn’t watch them for a while because I didn’t want to spoil my interpretation of the world in my head.
“I loved reading books about boarding schools at that age too, I had just finished Malory Towers and both that series and Harry Potter have a group of young friends that get up to mayhem. I felt a strong connection to Ron reading the books as I felt for him always being in the shadow of either his family or of Harry and Hermione. I am also terrified of spiders – which made it hard to read The Chamber of Secrets.
“I actually re-read The Philosopher’s Stone last Christmas. I was isolating and I found it really comforting. It’s so nice to go back to the very beginning of Harry’s story, when our play is set so far into his future.”
Thomas Aldridge (Ron Weasley)
“It was 2001 and the first film had just come out, so I thought I should see what all the fuss was about. My girlfriend at the time was reading it and I started reading her copy while we were at drama school. I read Philosopher’s Stone in dribs and drabs the first time and then didn’t revisit the books until I started auditioning for Ron. I had a much more vested interest in them then of course, so I was cramming them as quickly as possible, but I still wasn’t hooked straight away. Then I read Prisoner of Azkaban and wallop! I was a fan.
“I’ve always loved stories about other worlds or lands so that’s something that grabbed me straight away, but it was the friendships that made me look forward to picking the books up each time. Azkaban really was like a rollercoaster!
“Being a huge West Ham fan, I’m still so chuffed that they’re the only football team referenced in the books and, for that reason, Dean Thomas was always my favourite. I loved the chapter where Ron was messing with Dean’s squad poster on the wall of the Gryffindor dorm because I had that exact poster on my bedroom wall. It also made me fall in love with Ron too.
“All the books are in my dressing room and whenever we rehearse, I usually try and quote something new out of one of them to make it look like I’ve done my homework… But I am genuinely re-reading them now with my daughter who is just eating them up! She loves them! I’m so immensely proud to be a part of something so special.”