Long before I lost my heart to a cannibal, some kids at a magical school owned my soul. For almost 20 years, I have lived and breathed J.K. Rowling’s rich, fascinating world. At the age of 11 (coincidentally), and a voracious reader, my mum brought me home a book that was being hailed in all the papers – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I didn’t actually want to read it because fantasy and magic was never my thing, and only did so having run out of other material. I distinctly remember being utterly lost to it after a single page.
Fast forward through beating my dad through Book 4 as the faster reader; buying Book 6 at midnight and staying up until dawn to finish it in one go; and my door being knocked to make sure I was ok, such was the volume of my hysterical tears over Snape in Book 7. I have copies of Fantastic Beasts & Beadle the Bard, a Time Turner with real sand in, an ‘Always’ tattoo and I went to school with Cho (but that one is just another coincidence). Going to the Studio Tour was one of the top 5 highlights of my life and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen the movies. I would kill to see the Disney park. Sorry Dr. L but I’m a Potterhead first.
Nevertheless, Cursed Child took a little while to come to my attention. It wasn’t until after the first lot of people I knew started to get booked up, I felt like as a superfan, I had to do the same. I knew the general feeling was one of scepticism, especially after the script was published. I refrained from reading it, decided I had to find out for myself and convinced my parents to get me tickets for Christmas. Christmas 2015 that is. If you want to book, it’ll be a long time in advance, and it’s split over two parts so you do essentially have to pay for tickets to two shows. Long story short, It is worth the money and the wait.
Opening on July 30th (Harry’s birthday) 2016, the play received mixed reviews despite glowing press. In the spirit of the #KeepTheSecrets marketing surrounding the production, I won’t be giving anything away. Let’s just say there is a twist in Part 2 and an original character, and not everyone is pleased with either of them. I however, think it’s interesting, and a solid future plot for kids and adults alike. What is public knowledge, is that the show centres around Harry and Ginny’s middle child, Albus, and his time at Hogwarts. We get to see Draco, Ron and Hermione as adults too, and there are plenty of nods to things from the original series to keep even the most obsessed audience-member happy.
The casting was hotly debated in the media, for nothing but sheer racism after it was announced Hermione would be played by Noma Dumezweni. In the theatre, skill and stagecraft often matter more than sticking rigidly to a character bio. She is a fab Hermione and truly they are all outstanding, with notable mentions for Anthony Boyle as Scorpius and Jamie Parker as Harry. I also think it’s very believable that the younger cast are children, when in fact they are simply youthful looking adults, cast alongside more mature ones. The wonder of theatre eh?
I enjoy the future aspect; I enjoy the inclusion of beloved characters alongside the development of minor and new ones; and I particularly like the ambiguity in the way that at least four different people could arguably be the titular ‘cursed’ child. Also the story begins where the book-epilogue leaves off, and that actually takes place in 2017 in world (if you do the maths from Harry’s birth year etc), which is the level of detail I adore. The twist is also fine, if you apply as much willing suspension of disbelief as you need anyway when you’re talking about wizardry… People just like a moan.
A major complaint was that all of that makes it seem ‘like fanfiction’ but my argument to that would be, to a discerning literary person, comparing something to fanfiction isn’t an insult. Plenty of fan writers have more skill than paid writers, so what I guess they’re really saying is that it’s a mildly fanservicey alternate reality of a world we already know. Yes, it is. That’s the point. If you only want to deal with rigid book-canon then that’s up to you. Also I would wager that it doesn’t read remotely as well in the published script as it comes across in live action. I am glad I saved myself to see it performed, because I had no issues.
The plot is Rowling’s, while the script was written by UK playwright Jack Thorne, and the show directed by John Tiffany. The plays themselves are well put together production-wise, with stage magic that leaves you questioning reality, and some visual effects that are really rather impressive for the theatre medium. The costumes, sets and music are very in keeping with the existing HP universe; and there are some good contemporary dance sequences. It fits with the other stories and stands alone, which is as it should be.
It sounds trivial but also the seats are actually comfy and have decent legroom even for tall people, which makes it much easier to sit for a total of roughly 5 hours. We chose the matinee and evening option on the same day, wandering off for dinner in the break, and we found it fine. You can choose to go two days running as well. We also made the 2 minute walk around the corner to The House Of Minalima on Greek Street. This is the exhibition space for the designers of all the graphic art from the HP franchise, including Fantastic Beasts, and was recommended to me by a friend. It only takes around 20 minutes to see it all and it’s free besides the gift shop, but it’s a must-see for any aficionado.
All analyses aside, I was gleeful from the minute I sat down, to the standing ovation I’m sure they receive every day. In the dark of the historic Palace Theatre, I became a wide eyed child once more, falling in love with a new part of this iconic series all over again. I’m not even big on straight plays as opposed to musical theatre, and even my long-suffering muggle husband wholeheartedly enjoyed himself. I’d give it 5 stars but if you love Harry Potter, you need to go experience the magic yourself.
Tickets for The Palace Theatre, London can be purchased for dates up to 22nd July 2018 HERE and it will be opening at The Lyric Theatre, Broadway on 22nd April 2018!