The Tourney at Harrenhal. The kidnapping of Lyanna Stark. Robert’s Rebellion. All were spoken about in hushed tones during the course of HBO’s fantasy series Game of Thrones as the fateful events that led to the corrupt and fractured kingdom that we’re introduced to at the start of the series. Now, A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin is bringing those events to life in…a stage play.
A Game of Thrones stage play is heading for Broadway, London’s West End, and Australian stages, with Martin penning the story alongside award-winning playwright Duncan MacMillan (1984). The show will be about the Great Tourney at Harrenhal, the fateful jousting and archery tournament that essentially kicked off the events that led to the war 16 years before the events of Game of Thrones. According to The Hollywood Reporter, it’s a prequel story that will mostly likely bring back beloved characters like Ned Stark, Jaime Lannister, Oberyn Martell, and Robert Baratheon, but, you know, younger.
Here are more details:
The play will for the first time take audiences deeper behind the scenes of a landmark event that previously was shrouded in mystery. Featuring many of the most iconic and well-known characters from the series, the production will boast a story centered around love, vengeance, madness and the dangers of dealing in prophecy, in the process revealing secrets and lies that have only been hinted at until now.
The Great Tourney at Harrenhal has been frequently alluded to in Game of Thrones, but never depicted onscreen. It’s the kind of tournament you’d expect out of high medieval fantasy or a Renaissance fair: a grand 10-day tournament full of jousting, archery, and more. But it was a pivotal turning point in Westeros history — it was here that Lyanna Stark, Ned Stark’s beautiful, rebellious sister, caught the eye of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, who falls in love and “kidnaps” her, leading her betrothed Robert Baratheon to start a war that would lead to his taking the Iron Throne and the surviving Targaryens to be exiled. Of course, we know that R+L=J, and that Lyanna actually fell in love with Rhaegar and left of her own volition, which is the kind of star-crossed love story that will be perfectly suited for the stage.
No characters have yet been confirmed for this stage play, but based on how the events are depicted in Martin’s books, we can probably expect the return of Ned Stark, Jaime Lannister, Robert Baratheon, Oberyn Martell, Ser Barristan Selmy, and of course Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen. Characters like Cersei Lannister, Tywin Lannister, Tyrion Lannister, Littlefinger and Varys didn’t really play a major part in the events, but may pop up.
“The seeds of war are often planted in times of peace,” Martin said in a statement. “Few in Westeros knew the carnage to come when highborn and smallfolk alike gathered at Harrenhal to watch the finest knights of the realm compete in a great tourney, during the Year of the False Spring. It is a tourney oft referred during HBO’s Game of Thrones, and in my novels, A Song of Ice & Fire … and now, at last, we can tell the whole story… on the stage.”
The yet-untitled Game of Thrones stage play comes from producers Simon Painter and Tim Lawson (The Illusionists), in partnership with Kilburn Live, with director Dominic Cooke (The Courier). The team aims to debut the show in 2023.
Added Martin about the stage production:
“An amazing team has been assembled to tell the tale, starting with producers Simon Painter, Tim Lawson and Jonathan Sanford. Their knowledge and love of my world and characters has impressed me from the very first, and their plans for this production blew me away since the first time we met. Dominic Cooke, our director, is a former artistic director of London’s Royal Court Theatre, who brought Shakespeare’s dramas of the War of the Roses to television, and our playwright, Duncan Macmillan, has previously adapted George Orwell and Henrik Ibsen, among others. Working with them (back before the pandemic, when we could actually get together) has been a treat, and I am eager for our collaboration to resume. Our dream is to bring Westeros to Broadway, to the West End, to Australia… and eventually, to a stage near you … It ought to be spectacular.”
Martin’s “War of the Roses” reference is a nod to the real-life war’s inspiration for his A Song of Ice and Fire saga, though the Tourney of Harrenhal and the events that follow take more cues from the fictional kidnapping of Helen of Troy. But Martin’s comparisons are probably apt — the stage play has the potential to be an epic war drama with a core star-crossed romance that could evoke Shakespeare. But rather than building himself up to be the next Shakespeare, shouldn’t Martin get to finally writing those final books? (We know, that ship has sailed.)
HBO is not formally involved with the project at this point. In addition to Painter and Lawson, Vince Gerardis and Jonathan Sanford will also serve as executive producers.
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