Harry Potter Fringe show is reclaiming magic from you-know-who: ‘Nobody owns imagination’

Actors performing Reclaiming Harry at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Reclaiming Harry is a new Edinburgh Fringe show for all the Potterheads who are done with JK Rowling. 

The musical follows two characters, Harry Potter (obviously) and Ally, a disillusioned Harry Potter fan. They are both looking for purpose after disowning their former hero, author JK Rowling, and soon find themselves flung into several famous fictional worlds from Narnia to Twilight’s Forks High School.

Ally is played by Evie James, a cis woman wanting to show what it means to be an ally to the transgender community by calling out Rowling for her anti-trans rhetoric.

“Being a straight cis-gendered woman, I’m not speaking on behalf of trans women,” James told PinkNews, “but I’m speaking as a woman who I think should be doing the best that she can to be a proper ally. And to call out JK Rowling and say: ‘No, you have this view, and it’s wrong. It’s completely wrong.'”

Harry and Ally.

Rich Watkins and Evie James as Harry and Ally and in Reclaiming Harry. (Supplied)

The show creator Rich Watkins added: “As a theatre professional, I wanted to be an ally to the trans community in this whole debate.

“We’re not speaking on behalf of trans people, but we are hopefully expressing our allyship in the most warm way that we can.”

Watkins emphasised the collaborative nature of the script, with trans artists, writers and performers coming on board to give feedback throughout the process, such as performer Jessica Rowbottom.

Some ex-Harry Potter fans have called out artists for continuing to create Harry Potter-related content, believing the best way to hold Rowling to account is to leave her world behind. But for many, the franchise and the inclusive community it has created is too important to give up so easily.
James and Watkins both agreed that this play was “for people that don’t know how to feel about Harry Potter anymore”.

Watkins said: “This is a story of how we as allies can approach Harry Potter because, unfortunately, it’s not going away.”

“If one can delete all of Harry Potter from one’s consciousness that’s great. I fully champion it. It hasn’t worked for me. And I know it hasn’t worked for other people. 

“So this is just trying to provide a space full of joy and kindness where we can acknowledge the existence of Harry Potter and then try to disassociate it from the writer.”

Harry and Ally

‘It’s the biggest middle finger to Rowling’ – Harry and Ally in Reclaiming Harry. (Supplied)

The franchise has continued to expand over the past few years with the new spin-off series, Fantastic Beasts, a West End show, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and a major new video game.

Trans people and allies have called on fans to stop financially supporting the franchise and Rowling, and Watkins believe shows like Reclaiming Harry are a good alternative. 

“The more that we celebrate the brand, the more money she gets, but if anyone buys all her merch after this that would be a really bizarre move,” they said.

James added: “It’s the biggest middle finger to Rowling that people are taking it on themselves.”

The show is performing in Edinburgh, known as the birthplace of Harry Potter and Rowling’s home city.

“We gave a flyer out yesterday to a lovely young woman yesterday,” James recalled, “and she was like: ‘Oh, JK Rowling is my neighbour.'”

At its heart, the show is about moving on from the author, and is described as “a love letter to the queer community”.

In the play, Rowling is forgotten about after the first 15 minutes as Harry is plunged into a new adventure set to the tunes of the Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls and Natalie Imbruglia.

And there is one particularly cutting scene that sees a Harry Potter book torn to shreds in an act of defiance. 

Although the show is free to attend, 10 per cent of any donations made will be given to Mermaids UK as a sign of solidarity with the trans community. 

In the end, Watkins believes “nobody owns magic, nobody owns adolescence, nobody owns hope, nobody owns allyship and nobody owns imagination”.

You can watch Reclaiming Harry from 17 to 21 August, and 23 to 28 August at 10:30pm; in CC Blooms bar, Edinburgh.