Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

As the play has now officially opened, I thought it was safe to share my thoughts on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I’ve tried to #KeepTheSecrets as much as possible, but if you’d prefer to remain 100% spoiler free, please look away now!

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As we approached the theatre, it was immediately obvious that we’d come to the right place. The queue stretching round the block was packed with beaming faces and bodies covered top-to-toe in Hogwarts paraphernalia – striped scarves in red and gold, ties in green and silver, billowing black robes, t-shirts printed with familiar quotes and even a handful of pointed hats. Then there were the accents – voices from states across America, from New Zealand, Australia, Japan. It seems there’s no ocean a Potter fan won’t cross for a fresh dose of The Boy Who Lived.

It’s challenging to review a play without spoilers, but I’ll do my best to honour Rowling’s plea and #KeepTheSecrets.

Part One (the story is spread across two parts, each of which requires its own ticket) opens with the final scene of The Deathly Hallows. Now in their mid-thirties, Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny are on Platform 9 3/4, preparing to send their own children off to Hogwarts. While two of Harry and Ginny’s children, James and Lily, are flourishing, his middle child, Albus Severus, is struggling under the weight of his father’s legacy (not to mention that of his namesakes). The action moves back and forth between Albus and Harry, with their troubled father-son relationship forming the emotional crux of the story. I’m nervous to go into any more detail about the plot, but sufficient to say that Albus and Harry are joined by a host of familiar faces across the five or so (!) hours of story J.K. Rowling and playwright Jack Thorne have created.

It must be intimidating to take on such beloved characters, but the actors are extremely well cast and do a fantastic job of conveying the inevitable changes that come with maturity while remaining clearly recognisable as the characters we know and love. Jamie Parker beautifully embodies the turmoil that still dominates Harry’s internal landscape, while Noma Dumezweni plays Hermione with grace and natural authority and Paul Thornley adeptly captures how Ron’s childish humour has evolved into a constant flow of Dad jokes. There are also plenty of new characters to get to know. Sam Clemmett and Anthony Boyle deserve particular praise; as Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy (the son of Draco), they carry much of the story and make it look effortless.

As strong as the cast is, they are in danger of being over-shadowed by the spectacular scenery and effects. The entire creative team has done a wonderful job of realising the wizarding world onstage. John Tiffany’s direction and Steven Hoggett’s choreography combine to seamlessly transition between scenes and locations, aided by Imogen Heap’s gorgeous soundscape. Actors disappear and reappear on the other side of the theatre seconds later; objects and people fly into the air; faces morph into others. The pace and accuracy of the effects elicit constant gasps from the audience. It’s theatre at its most magical.

Rowling took a gamble when deciding to continue Harry’s story on stage. Financially, the size of the Potter fandom means that the show was always going to be a hit – the tickets sold out over six months in advance and the production is fully booked until May. In all other aspects, however, The Cursed Child was more of a risk. Had the script not managed to reproduce the wonderful essence of the books, Rowling risked throwing away the very thing that ensured she could take this risk in the first place: the trust and adoration of Potter fans. However, judging by the size of the grins on the audience’s faces as they left the theatre, I don’t think Rowling – or her fans – have anything to worry about.

 

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