Palace Theatre, London
The Harry Potter franchise continues with a new generation finding themselves getting into trouble in this slickly choreographed and magical production, which won three prizes at last week’s Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards – Best Director (John Tiffany), Best Designer (Christine Jones) and Most Promising Newcomer (Anthony Boyle, who plays Scorpius Malfoy).
Ok so I might be a little bit late to the party with this one. I wasn’t on the ball when it came to signing up for priority tickets for the ‘theatrical event of the year’ and admittedly part of that was down to some doubts (as a Harry Potter fan) about whether the characters and a new story could work well on the stage.
Now that I have seen it, have those worries vanished into thin air just like Harry in his invisibility cloak? Well yes they have in all honesty.
In this new story audiences see the next generation of Potters and Malfoys getting themselves into trouble that threatens to see the past resurfacing again. Harry is still struggling to deal with what happened to him all those years ago, while his son Albus is struggling to deal with the pressure of being Harry Potter’s son. That is all I’m permitted or want to say about the story as much of the pleasure of watching Cursed Child unfold is the numerous twists and turns that it takes you on.
John Tiffany’s production is slick and smooth combined with plenty of energy and pace that everything that happens just whizzes by. At the same time it manages to keep the core principles of J.K Rowling’s principles of the original stories and this latest addition such as friendship and relationships right at the centre, making it a genuinely heartfelt and at times difficult watch – particularly in the climax of the second part.
It is a surprisingly psychological piece that examines the lasting impact or consequences that fighting Voldemort had on Harry. The emergence of his resentment and frustration that he had was put into that situation and the loss of his parents at an early age are really at the forefront of the production.
There is always a danger in putting beloved characters on stage in such an exposing way and the cast wanting to play them exactly how they were in the films – but this isn’t a problem here. Jamie Parker as Harry reveals a completely different side to his character that shows how he is struggling to cope as a father and with his past effectively and painfully, while Nicola Alexis as Hermione delivers a charismatic and practical performance that fills up the entire stage and Paul Thornley as Ron adds much needed light relief consistently that is a delight to watch. All putting their own mark on the characters we know and love.
But it is really the touching and sweet friendship between Albus and Scorpius, performed brilliantly by Sam Clemmett and James Le Lacheur that is at the centre of the story. Throughout their bond is evident to see, both outsiders but both capable of great bravery -willing to do anything for each other.
Visually, both shows are literally theatrical magic with gorgeously slick choreography (I really want a cloak now just to swish it around in the flamboyant way the cast do throughout) and the stunning illusions and magic by Jamie Harrison were equal to anything that we saw in the films – if not even better.
There is enough nostalgia in there for the fans, but ultimately this feels like a fresh and new way to explore the world of Harry Potter. Some fans might struggle with idea that it isn’t really about Harry, Ron and Hermione – but if you are willing to put that aside you are still very much rewarded.
Overall, it was very much worth the wait – even if it is not quite what you were expecting. It is a play that can stand on its own from the original series and you don’t necessarily have to know what happened in the Goblet of Fire to follow as much of what you need to know is explained anyway. An enchanting experience that will delight no matter what age you are.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is booking at the Palace Theatre until 29th April 2018. For more information and to book tickets visit: https://www.harrypottertheplay.com/.