The owls have been fired.
Harry Potter fans were furious when U.K. columnist Baz Bamigboye created a spoiler by revealing that the London play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child used, among its reportedly wondrous special effects, live owls.
For those unfamiliar with the Potterverse, owls are among the young wizards and witches’ familiars and used for carrying messages. Harry's own owl was named Hedwig.
But fans will now just have to imagine them. According to a report in the Independent, one of the live owls used in the show escaped during the first preview, creating a problem that was visible to the audience. As a result, the live owls have been removed from the production.
Production spokesperson Janine Shalom told Playbill.com, “The production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is currently in its preview stage, with the process designed to allow the creative team time to rehearse changes or explore specific scenes further before the play’s official opening. As part of this process earlier this week the decision was made not to feature live owls in any aspect of the production moving forward. The owls that were associated with the production were expertly cared for by a team of certified trainers and an on-site specialist veterinary surgeon (Steve Smith, MRCVS) who ensured the owls’ welfare and enrichment needs were safeguarded at all times. This was of utmost importance to the production.”
PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), which had opposed the use of the avians in the show, released a statement saying, “PETA commends the production team for coming to its senses and recognising that treating owls like props goes against every message of respect and kindness that JK Rowling's wonderful books taught us.”
The two-part play that continues the story of boy wizard Harry Potter decades after the period covered in the best-selling books began previews at the London Palace Theatre June 7 and is scheduled to open July 30.