Who would have thought we needed more Harry Potter? After seven books and eight films did we really need Harry Potter And The Cursed Child. I didn’t really think so; despite having very fond memories of the books and films. Had it not been for a serendipitous availability of tickets I probably wouldn’t have bothered booking months in advance through an incomprehensible online booking service! And that would have been my loss as I loved everything about this play.
We knew we were in for a treat just walking to the theatre; the Princess looked terrific. We went on the 13th and 14th of September. There was a real buzz around the theatre. The whole interior has been fitted out to reflect the play; including these cute lamps.
Terrific performances from everyone, but in particular the two main boys – Albus Potter son of Harry and Scorpius Malfoy son of Draco – played by Sean Rees-Wemyss and William McKenna; neither of whom had done much acting before; in particular William for whom this was his first role, he’s the white-haired boy on the right.
Gyton Grantley playing Ron Weasley was the only familiar face amongst the cast and he was good; although poor Ron hasn’t aged particularly well. I really liked the New Zealand actor, Gareth Reeves who played Harry. There must have been a lot of pressure on him to play this role, given everyone has their own picture of the boy who lived. It was interesting to our child heroes and villains all grown up, reflecting on their lives back then in ways that took them out of what could have been expected of them. It all rang true to me.
There was incredibly energetic and innovative stage-craft throughout: characters emerged with a whoosh from a fireplace and disappeared into bookcases and even swam in a lake! For some reason I was expecting a musical but there wasn’t much singing. Instead there were many impressively choreographed dance sequences. As you can see from this photo from the programme, the sets and costumes were also terrific.
All of the tropes from the book came to life; the Hogwarts moving staircases featured a lot to keep things rattling along. There were living portraits and lots of spells including the magical patronus spells, and even transformations! A scene involving Death Eaters was particularly memorable.
At the end of the performance on both nights we were given a badge exhorting us to keep the secrets! So its a bit hard to talk about the story. Enough to say that it very cleverly brings together strands from the books into a very satisfying tale of adolescent friendship and the perils of parenting. It brought to mind the famous lines from Philip Larkin; They fuck you up your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do. They fill you with the faults they had. And add some extra, just for you.. The focus was on the relationship between the two boys, and between the boys and their fathers. Which was very emotionally rewarding, but it meant less time and attention to most of the female roles which is a pity. It could have done with a new, young Hermione!.
An element of time travel took us back to familiar places and faces. It was fun seeing them all again. They were all dressed and made up to look like their counterparts in the movies – Dumbledore (moving in and out of pictures uttering his obtuse advice), Professor McGonagill could have been Maggie Smith. There was an audible gasp and a cheer from the audience when Severus Snape appeared looking like Alan Rickman! I thought the new narrative arc for him was especially true to the character in the books. that odd combination of hostility and honour! And Moaning Myrtle was memorable in a brilliantly realised set depicting her bathroom. The time travel device also allows us to witness alternative futures – both universal and particular to the characters. Incredibly inventive.
There was a very moving penultimate scene (arguably it should have been the last) that moved me to tears. This picture, again from the programme, hence the terrible quality, brings it back to me. I loved the books and the films and so was very familiar with the back story and this enhanced my enjoyment but I know people who didn’t have that knowledge who still enjoyed the experience.
It’s a very wordy play which I liked but sitting up in the gods I missed a bit of the dialogue so afterwards I bought the screen play which I also enjoyed. There was quite a bit of audience interaction on our two nights – laughter, sighs, groans and cheers. Two great nights out. Worth the bother of booking months in advance through an incomprehensible online booking service!