‘Game of Thrones’ aims for Broadway
By Sarah Bahr
“Game of Thrones” ended in 2019 but George R.R. Martin still hasn’t finished the next novel in his Song of Ice and Fire series, the books that inspired the globally popular HBO drama.
Alas, no word on when that might happen. But impatient fans may have something else to look forward to: The return of favorite characters like Ned Stark and Jaime Lannister in a stage adaptation of “Game of Thrones” that is being developed in the hope of productions on Broadway, in London’s West End and in Australia, with a target debut of 2023.
“It ought to be spectacular,” Martin said in a statement announcing the play on Tuesday.
The author will write the story alongside the playwright Duncan Macmillan, who also adapted George Orwell’s “1984” for the stage and recently wrote “Lungs,” a play that streamed live from London’s Old Vic Theater last summer. Dominic Cooke, a former artistic director of the Royal Court Theater, will direct.
Martin said the play, which is not yet titled, will be set during a pivotal moment in the history of the series — The Great Tourney at Harrenhal, which took place 16 years before the events of “Game of Thrones” — and include many of the show’s “most iconic and well-known characters.” The production’s story, he said, will be “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 featured jousting and archery competitions and was considered the biggest tournament in Westeros history. No specific characters have yet been confirmed to recur, but a few seem like safe bets — a young Ned Stark, his sister Lyanna, and a braggadocious teenage Jaime Lannister all attended the event in Martin’s books.
Simon Painter, Tim Lawson and Jonathan Sanford will produce, in partnership with Kilburn Live. Painter is known for creating large-scale touring shows like “The Illusionist” franchise, which he launched with Lawson. Vince Gerardis will also serve as an executive producer.
The play is the latest in a series of prequel projects that have been announced since the HBO fantasy epic concluded in 2019. Martin recently agreed to a five-year deal with HBO to create content for the network, and one “Game of Thrones” prequel, “House of the Dragon,” has already been greenlit, with an expected premiere in 2022.
The series became a singularly enormous hit for HBO, regularly attracting millions of viewers for each episode across its eight seasons. The final episode was the most-watched of the series, drawing 19.3 million viewers when it aired in May 2019.
This will not be the first “Game of Thrones” project for the stage. Ramin Djawadi, the show’s composer, toured with musicians playing the score set to clips from the series in arenas all over the world from 2017 to 2019, complete with confetti snow, sparks, smoke and “dragon” fire.
Other fantasy epics have attempted journeys to the stage after the conclusion of their literary sagas, among them J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series and J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” books. The two-part “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” which debuted in London in 2016, won six Tony Awards during its Broadway run, which began in 2018, and has been produced in Toronto and Melbourne, Australia. But the “Lord of the Rings” musical, which opened in Toronto in 2006 before transferring to the West End, was never a critical — or box office — success, and went on to become one of the biggest commercial flops in West End history.
But, right now, for Westeros fans, excitement is running high.
“The seeds of war are often planted in times of peace,” Martin said. “And now, at last, we can tell the whole story … on the stage.”