One of many exciting moments in the first preview for Harry Potter sequel play The Cursed Child this week was completely unplanned, when a live owl used in the production escaped and flew over the audience.
However, any fans hoping to see this feat repeated will find themselves out of luck, as the show’s production team has now announced that real owls will no longer play a part in performances going forward.
"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," a statement said (according to the Stage).
Despite causing merriment on the first night the use of real birds proved controversial for the preview performance, with animal right campaigners Peta saying their inclusion "goes against every message of respect and kindness that JK Rowling's wonderful books taught us.”
The statement from the play’s producers addressed this controversy, going into more detail to explain that the owls’ safety and welfare was of the “utmost importance” and explaining that they had a team of certified trainers and specialist vet on hand to look after tham.
However, that wasn’t enough for Peta. Speaking after the announcement was made about retiring the birds, the organisation’s director Mimi Bekhechi said: "It goes completely against [owls'] nature to be subjected to crowds of people and bright lights from theatre productions. Having endured a life of human handling and 'training' does not remove their innate fears, temperaments or basic welfare needs, and theatre conditions have the potential to cause them tremendous stress.”
She concluded by saying that she thought the events proved that "animals need not be exploited for the theatre, and that the possibilities of prop design are limited by our own creativity."
The Cursed Child officially opens July 30, and the text of the play will be released on July 31.
For more information about Harry Potter and The Cursed Child see the play's official website