Review of 'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child'

https://www.harrypottertheplay.com/

On the morning of Thursday, August 4th, 2016 I opened the booking web site for the “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” play where, we were promised, many thousands of tickets were being released for purchase. I joined the queue. Position 11,000 (or so) did not bode well so I left the page open and went about my day's work keeping an eye on the counter periodically as it slowly dropped. Eleven hours later…I was in! Looking at ticket availability I quickly realized we were not going to be visiting any time soon so I picked the earliest date with any reasonable availability: A year later, August 2017! We would have to wait a year to see the most popular play in decades.

Ever since the play to tell the 8th Harry Potter story (told in an unprecedented two parts) was announced there has been a great deal of excitement with tickets grabbed as soon as they are released, queues around the block never mind the great secrecy around the story. So, is it all worth it? Is it really all that great? In a word: Yes.

I won't say much about the story other than to reiterate what has already been said by the author herself: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child takes place immediately following the final scenes of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” where a now adult Harry, Hermione and Ron are seeing their children off to their first year at Hogwarts at Kings Cross station. Harry's son is “Albus Severus Potter” who is a key character in this play. Beyond this I can say very little other than that we take a journey that encompasses much of Harry's story which will delight most fans. As might be expected, the end of part 1 leaves us on a dramatic cliff-hanger that is, perhaps, all too easily resolved in part 2 though trumped with another perhaps even more dramatic finale.

Yes, knowing the books fairly well will probably help you in fully appreciating the play. The £5 program does helpfully offer a summary of the story so far for those who haven't recently read the books or are not terribly familiar with many of the details. With this understanding you can better comprehend some of what is revealed in the two parts (there were periodic gasps from the audience throughout).

The staging is absolutely incredible as are the effects. We have been told there are things here that have never been done before and this was not much wrong. There are a number of amazing scenes and interaction with the audience that really bring the story to life. They make very good use of the whole auditorium in telling the story at times unfolding literally around you sitting in your seat. The sets are dynamic and used to great effect (with the stairs at Hogwarts particularly well designed and used). The play itself is extremely fast paced though there is a lot of character development and talking as well which may lose many of the younger members of the audience. A number of scenes feature dancers on the stage that seem to be doing much more than filling time but, admittedly, they do break up the exposition-heavy script. The swoosh sound effects as props are hidden by characters using black capes and removed from the stage is perhaps a bit OTT but is effective in quickly changing scenes.

As for the acting I have to say I was really drawn to Samuel Blenkin playing Scorpious Malfoy and James Howard playing his father, Draco Malfoy. They both put on amazing performances are by far the most interesting characters particularly in part 1 of the play. Theo Ancient plays the snivelling and pouting Albus Potter, struggling to be the son of THE Harry Potter who really only becomes actually likeable in part 2. Jamie Glover as Harry Potter is quite convincing if slightly over-brooding as the legend. His wife Ginny played by Emma Lowndes plays a very straight and rational, if somewhat minor, role throughout though perhaps, for me, a bit too cool and too level-headed. The supporting cast with, slightly controversially, Rakie Ayola as Hermione Granger (choosing to cast a black actress as Hermione caused something of a stir when announced), Helen Aluko as her daughter Rose Granger-Weasley and Thomas Aldridge as her husband, Ron Weasley all put on impressive performances. I did find Ayola lacking a bit of warmth though her dynamic, passionate and enthusiastic style is well suited to the role. Aldridge as Ron is slightly relegated to the background but does offer, as he did in the original stories, a bit of comedy relief to the heavy events that unfold on the stage.

Security around the Palace is tight for the play with advice currently being to be at least an hour early to clear the baggage checks and they are not too far wrong. On the plus side as soon as we were inside, 45 minutes or so early for the performance, we were able to take our seats in the auditorium rather than having to linger about in the lobby. Each part is approximately 2 1/2 hours long with each having a 20 minute interval.

I think Harry Potter fans will be satisfied with this latest instalment to the stories and having it staged as a play adds another almost more dramatic element. Perhaps the effects are not quite as magical as the special effects lavished on the movies but here they are real and engage the audience on a whole new, almost personal level.

Absolutely worth the hassle of getting tickets. An incredible piece of live performance art with a great new story for Harry Potter fans. Trumping the movies in terms of depth and audience interaction. Make no mistake about it, this is a play and there are times when people are standing about on the stage talking with not a lot of action going on but this is kept to a minimum.

Amazing.

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Rating:

Review Date: 2017-08-26



Palace Theatre

Location: London (England)

Address: Shaftesbury Ave, Soho, London W1D 5AY ENGLAND

Public Transport: TUBE Leicester Square

Telephone: +44 (0) 330 333 4813

URL: https://www.nimaxtheatres.com/palace-theatre/

Long the home of Les Miserables then Spamalot and now Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the magnificent Palace Theatre sits on the corner of Shaftsbury and Charing Cross Road in the heart of London's West End. There is marble throughout the classic interior of the theatre with small landings on each floor. A small bar is on the second floor (where you access Grand Circle seats). There is a cloak room in the basement and another on the second floor as well. There are generally good views of the stage throughout the auditorium though the raking in the Upper Circle is horrendous and seats in the circle floors quite cramped.