harry potter and the cursed child.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Parts 1 & 2)
Palace Theatre, 9th August 2017
dir. John Tiffany
Jack Thorne (with J. K. Rowling and John Tiffany)
It goes without saying that the wait for tickets for this was a long one: a year, in fact, between booking and seeing the production itself. But goodness me, was it worth the wait!
In case you didn't know (and how could you not know?), 'Cursed Child' is billed as the eighth story, set nineteen years later. In reality though, it's simultaneously that and not that. There are some spoilers after the jump - read no further if you don't want to know what happens!
The play itself focuses not so much on Harry, Ron and Hermione, but instead on the next generation: Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy. In fact, as magical as the production is, at it's heart this is a story about family relationships - especially father/ son relationships, and it is these roots in ordinary life which allows the rest of the plot to soar: the more fantastical moments are tempered by real life and real relationships. This has always been a highlight of the world of Harry Potter: things don't happen in sterile isolation but are instead impacted and caused by humans and human emotions.
It took perhaps ten minutes of Part 1, Act 1 for me to realise that it is time for Neville Longbottom to move over: Scorpius Malfoy is the greatest, kindest, most selfless hero of the Harry Potter universe, helped by a hilarious performance, tinged with pathos, from Samuel Blenkin. He is almost an anti-Malfoy and the performance was beautifully and delicately given.
Similarly the performance of Theo Ancient as Albus Potter was strong: he clearly conveyed the difficulties faced being the son of Harry Potter, and worked well alongside Blenkin's Scorpius: their stage chemistry was strong.
A difficult job, of course, for the actors playing the 'originals' - namely Harry, Ron, Hermione and Draco. They are big boots to fill: the characters are so well known by so many people, and the performances of the actors in the films are now entirely entwined with the characters themselves. Having said this, each actor gave their own stamp to their character: in particular, Thomas Aldridge gave a fantastic performance as a grown up Ron Weasley. We also saw Gideon Turner's debut in the titular role and it was an astonishingly good one: polished, with all the depth of character one would expect. A fantastic performance.
In all, there were some fantastic dramatic performances, particularly, as mentioned, from Blenkin, Aldridge and Turner. Sadly, however, the same can't be said for all of the principal parts. April Hughes was on as Delphi Diggory, and her performance was almost a pantomime: high pitched voice, overblown, caricature-ish gestures and shrieking abounded, taking much of the menace and threat of the character out. It was a disappointing and hugely overplayed performance which was a frustrating and unnecessary distraction from the action of the piece. Interestingly, at the end of the performance I remarked that I thought Hughes probably usually played Moaning Myrtle. A look at the programme revealed this to be true, and says a great deal about her performance as Delphi.
It goes without saying that the staging was truly magical in any number of ways. There was some genuinely good use of magic throughout that truly transported the audience - gasps included - into the magical world of Harry Potter. From polyjuice potion, transfiguration, dementors and entering the Ministry of Magic, there are plenty of jaw-dropping moments of wonder that make the ticket price worth it alone. Truly, truly breathtaking at many moments.
Alongside this, the play was beautifully choreographed with some breathtaking set pieces - in particular a scene in Act 1 featuring Albus struggling to get his wand to work correctly.
The scoring was beautifully done, too, with the recognisable work of Imogen Heap weaving it's way around the rest of the magic. Perhaps the only moment that drew me out of the play was hearing the famous 'Hide and Seek', but this is a small grumble when contrasted with the beautiful, haunting scoring used elsewhere.
There are undeniably some problems with the plot, covered at length elsewhere online, but I did not find that these detracted too terribly from the core story. I was delighted to see most of the plot revolving around the story of 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire' (hands down the best of the novels and films; don't @ me) and I could overlook the plot issues well enough to thoroughly enjoy every second of the two plays.
If you haven't been lucky enough to get tickets yet, don't give up! It was a magical day and one which I don't think I will ever forget. The next general ticket release is in Autumn 2017, and the play is already booking through to July 2018. Give it a go: you won't regret it.