Jack Thorne Discusses His Childhood, “Darkness” of His Dramas
“Oh yeah, I was the lonely, weird kid,” muses Jack Thorne, the screenwriter and playwright who wrote the script for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, in a new interview with the New Statesman. Expanding upon his childhood, Thorne explains the “darkness” that is present in many of his works, which – beyond Cursed Child – include the television series Skins, the mini-series of This Is England, and the four-part series National Treasure.
The New Statesman notes that Thorne’s ability to write adolescence is something of a rarity:
Few writers are able to evoke with such ease the offhand brutality of teenagers, or conjure the pain of that most mundane and cruellest of human experiences, not quite fitting in. […] There has barely been a script of his that hasn’t touched in some way on the subject of isolation, mental or physical.
Thorne, who has cholinergic urticaria (a medical condition “in which his body reacts allergically to its own temperature, creating a kind of chronic prickly heat”), says that some of his writing relates back to his medical issues:
My family is wonderful, but I had a pretty terrible time as a kid. I know everyone feels they’re not very good at childhood, but I was spectacularly bad. People weren’t particularly unkind; they just didn’t know what to do with me. A lot of my stuff is about wanting a best friend. I didn’t find a best friend until I was 32. And then I married her.
Now the father of a one-year-old son after he and his wife struggled to conceive, Thorne says that, now, he also relates back to a line in Cursed Child:
There’s a line in the play: ‘People say parenting is the hardest job in the world; they’re wrong – growing up is.’ Noma [Dumezweni] and Poppy [Miller] cornered me the other day and asked if I still believe that, now I have a kid. I conceded they had more of a point than I thought originally.
He admits that his own anxieties about becoming a father also played a role in the Cursed Child script:
Oh yeah, all the stuff I wrote around that time was like, ‘Argh, I’m going to be a dad, I don’t think I’m going to be a good dad’ – all that.
It was through director John Tiffany – with whom he had worked on the stage adaptation of Let the Right One In – and producer Sonia Friedman that Thorne was introduced to J.K. Rowling. He was already a fan of the Harry Potter series, which put pressure on him not to let Rowling down:
I had a big advantage – my first reader was John, and my second was Jo [Rowling]. If you’ve got the person out of whose head these characters came, then you go, ‘OK, I can make some choices. If they’re the wrong ones, she’ll say.’ And she did. I’m pretty sure I could have been fired at any time.
Thorne wasn’t fired, however, and has a number of additional projects in the works. One is a multi-part television adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials for BBC One:
When His Dark Materials came up I was in the middle of Potter, a bit exhausted by it and wanting to do my own stuff – but how often do you get the chance? You can’t not do that. It’s too exciting!
Currently, Thorne’s adaptation of Georg Büchner’s Woyzeck is running at the Old Vic until June 24. It stars actor John Boyega (Star Wars) in the title role.