Truly Magical: HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD: PARTS ONE AND TWO at the Palace

Before we even begin, I need to warn you that this review will contain a few small spoilers and a basic summary of the opening of the play's plot. If you're yet to see the play or read the book, I highly recommend that you come back to this review after you have done, because the play is even more magical if you go into it knowing absolutely nothing.

I have been a massive fan of Harry Potter for all of my life and while I was sceptical to hear that J K Rowling was writing a new, eighth instalment for the London stage, I was excited to see what was going to be done with the story. I've also always thought that Harry Potter was very theatrical and would work well on stage and even though the idea of that stupid Michael Jackson-penned Broadway musical put a bad taste in my mouth, the idea of this play didn't.

I went into the theatre managing to have avoided as small of a spoiler as a magic trick or a character that returned and it heightened the experience for me entirely, but there is still something to see here even if you already know the story. The special effects and magic tricks performed right in front of you on stage are truly mesmerising and at times, completely defy the realms of what I thought was possible in the theatre; the piece is a spectacle as well as a play and it's fantastic to watch.

Albus Severus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy encounter the Trolley Lady on the Hogwarts Express

*Minor spoiler alert - if you don't wish to know the basic premise of the play, please skip this paragraph* If you need a brief reminder of the play's plot: 18 years after the Battle of Hogwarts, Harry and Ginny are waving goodbye to their middle child Albus Severus Potter at Platform 9 3/4, while Hermione and Ron wave goodbye to their daughter Rose and Draco Malfoy waves goodbye to his son Scorpius. On the Hogwarts Express, the three become better acquainted and upon arrival at Hogwarts, Albus and Scorpius are sorted into Slytherin while Rose is sorted into Gryffindor. Years pass and Albus feels excluded and alone with his only friend Scorpius until one day, he hears word of a good deed he can do: team up with Cedric Diggery's cousin to save Cedric's life at the Triwizard Tournament so his dying father can be reunited with him. The three use the only remaining Time Turner to go back in time and fix the situation, but each time they alter something, the future is changed for the worst. Albus and Scorpius are forced to find a way to fix the destruction they keep causing, and fast.

I have to say that I definitely preferred the first part of the play to the second half from both a story and a technical perspective. The first part did seem like a massive fan fiction but the nostalgia that came from it made me feel good about it; it wasn't as unbelievable as the second part. By part two, the story started to feel seriously ridiculous and far-fetched and I was starting to wonder why J K Rowling was so lazy when it came to recycling things that I feel like we'd seen enough before; it felt like she was relying on a formula that she already knew would work and it was a shame that she didn't take many risks. Regardless, the resolution in part two satisfied me enough to decide I quite liked the story, even if it isn't what I like to think happened to the characters in my eyes.

Flashback: Spectators at the Triwizard Tournament from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Even if the story is weak though, it is undeniably impressive from a technical perspective. Jamie Harrison had the mammoth task of pulling together the different magical elements of the piece and he has done so with expertise and a very personal flair. The tricks in part one are especially impressive as even some of the smallest things seem magical and well thought out from characters suddenly appearing after a stage hand sweeps their cloak, to the papers on Harry's desk having the ability to sweep themselves up into a stack on the edge of the table. The precise direction should also be noted as good work by John Tiffany: not only was it impressive to see his ability to make poignant and subtle artistic decisions, but his movement work with Steven Hoggett is probably one of the best parts of the show.

A super example of Tiffany's directorial work is during part two when Albus and Scorpius exit the stage and tap a door that's centre stage while they leave and Harry and Draco mirror the action as they enter the stage walking past them. It's subtle and something not many people might even notice, but the attention to detail is appreciated immensely. Hoggett's work is in almost every part of the play, but a wonderful example is at the top of part two when a group of wizards and witches enter and perform a beautifully choreographed movement sequence on the stage's main turntable, utilising their massive capes and wands. Every time a movement sequence appears, it reminds me of how theatrical this piece really is and how it shouldn't in any way be immortalised in a basic, over the top movie.

Noma Dumezweni, Paul Thornley and Jamie Parker in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

That was another thing I was worried about actually: the whole piece would be far too big. While Christine Jones's set design was definitely large in size, it didn't in any way make this piece feel like it was shouting too loudly. The backdrop of Hogwarts - that stays a constant throughout but is frequently repurposed - is beautiful to look at, but subtle. Her minimal set pieces that roll on and off the stage create scenes perfectly, so perfectly in fact that I didn't even notice until now that such a little amount of set was actually used throughout the piece. If this show doesn't sweep the technical categories at next year's Olivier's, I'd be surprised, and we're barely even into this season yet.

The performances by the cast were fantastic as well. I've loved Noma Dumezweni and her dedication to her craft for a long time now and I was delighted to see her shine bright like she always does as a wonderful Hermione Granger. Hermione is one of my favourite characters and Noma manages to update and maintain Hermione's childish and bratty know-it-all attitude without making her irritating and unlikable, which is a must for the character. Jamie Parker also made a lovely turn as Harry as did Sam Clemmett in his starring turn as Albus Potter. My personal few favourites though were Annabel Baldwin as Moaning Myrtle, Anthony Boyle as Scorpius Malfoy and Cherrelle Skeete as Rose Granger-Weasley, all three of them giving fantastic and hilarious performances.

Jamie Parker and Sam Clemmett as Harry and Albus Potter respectively

While I think the story of this play is a bit ridiculous at times and is bound to make any fan of the series eye-roll a little bit, it is still a touching homage to the iconic series that came before it. The piece is unparalleled in its display of technical abilities and overall is a very well put together piece of theatre for both a fan of the Harry Potter series and a fan of the stage.

No comments