A Game of Thrones Broadway play is coming, about the Tourney at Harrenhal

Image: Game of Thrones/HBO
Image: Game of Thrones/HBO /

If you had any doubt that Game of Thrones was becoming a media force to be reckoned with after the end of the spectacularly popular show, this should put it to rest. Not only is HBO developing seven potential spin-off series, it’s also coming to Broadway in the form of a new play, per The Hollywood Reporter.

It sounds like this production has been in the works for a while. The play will depict the events of the Tourney at Harrenhal, a key event in Game of Thrones history. Before Robert’s Rebellion broke out, Aerys “the Mad King” Targaryen attended a massive tourney that lasted 10 days, with jousting and melees and the works. Younger versions of many characters we know attended, including Ned Stark, Benjen Stark, Robert Baratheon, Oberyn Martell, Ser Barristan Selmy and Jaime Lannister.

The big showstopper came at the end, when Prince Rhaegar Targaryen won the tourney and crowned Lyanna Stark the queen of love and beauty, placing a crown of blue winter roses in her lap. This was a huge scandal, since Rhaegar was married to Elia Martell at the time and Lyanna was betrothed to Robert Baratheon. Rhaegar and Lyanna absconded to Dorne not long after this, which set off Robert’s Rebellion, the war that put Robert Baratheon on the throne and exiled an infant Daenerys Targaryen across the Narrow Sea.

It is, to put it bluntly, a great freaking story, and I can definitely see it working as a play. It’s certainly more wieldy than, say, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, another example of a huge franchise that was later turned into a stage play. That play has a huge scope that had to be spread across two different shows. On the other hand, the events of the Tourney at Harrenhal are nice and localized, which make them a good fit for the stage. But hey, Cursed Child made a boatload of money, so I’m sure the producers would be happy if The Tourney at Harrenhal (the play doesn’t have name yet but I’m just gonna call it that for now) followed in its footsteps.

George R.R. Martin is developing a Game of Thrones play about the Tourney at Harrenhal

And just who are the producers? It starts with George R.R. Martin, who’s developing the story. “The seeds of war are often planted in times of peace,” Martin said in a statement, lifting a line from his book Fire & Blood. “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.”

"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."

Duncan Macmillan, the writer, also weighed in: “I have such admiration for George’s world and his characters. His generosity and trust during this process has been incredible. Working on this play during lockdown has felt like a real privilege. I can’t wait until we can be back in a theatre to experience this together.”

And director Dominic Cooke: “I am over the moon at being given the opportunity, by the dynamic producing team of Tim Lawson, Simon Painter and Kilburn Live, to bring a new installment of George RR Martin’s epic story to a life on stage. One of George’s inspirations for the original books was Shakespeare’s history plays so the material lends itself naturally to the theatre. Duncan MacMillan and I are having a great time digging into the dynastic power struggles at the heart of George’s extraordinary imaginative world and he has been hugely generous and supportive towards both of us.”

Finally, we have an official description:

"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."

Obviously, a lot of theaters are still closed down right now thanks to the pandemic, but producers are targeting a debut date of 2023, so a while off. As Martin says, they’re hoping to premiere The Tourney at Harrenhal on Broadway in New York City, on London’s West End and in Australia before it spreads out.

This news comes hot on the report that Martin has signed an incredibly lucrative deal to develop content for HBO. (According to THR, HBO is not directly involved in the play, although it’ll have an option to invest later. As you can see, Martin isn’t writing or directing the play, and the story was pretty much already in place, so I doubt it’ll take too much time away from his work on The Winds of Winter. That said, this can’t be good news for fans wishing he’d buckle down and just focus on the book.

As for the news itself, I think it sounds pretty exciting! I’ve always wanted to see the Tourney at Harrenhal depicted, and although I’d gladly take a screen adaptation, it does seem like a good choice for the stage if that’s the way they want to go.

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