On my birthday last year, tickets went on sale for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the eighth story and the brand-new two-part play by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany. In the frenzy that ensued (seriously, if you tried to get tickets that day, you will remember the horrendous virtual queues) I managed to grab tickets to see both parts on 6th July. I mean, if you can't treat yourself on your birthday, when can you?
If you don't want to know what the play is about, skip to the next paragraph. Still here? Good. Right then, let's try and sum up what is technically a five-hour production... The play opens exactly where the films and books left off on Platform 9 3/4, as Harry and Ginny wave off their kids as they begin the journey to Hogwarts. It's Albus Severus's first year, and - coming from a family of Gryffindors - he's scared that he will be sorted into Slytherin. When Albus's worst nightmare comes true and he is sorted into Slytherin, his relationship with his father becomes strained. This gets even worse when he becomes friends with Scorpius Malfoy, starts to feel the burden of being named after Dumbledore and Snape, and nearly destroys the world...
My god, this was a perfect production. Let's start with casting. When the actors were first announced, I didn't have an opinion. No one reads a book in the same way as anyone else; it's completely unique, and we all imagine the characters in different ways. Because of that, even when the cast photos were released, I didn't have an opinion except that racism isn't cool and people need to grow up. I didn't compare the actors with the film cast, either, because this is an entirely different medium and, as much as I love them, Radcliffe, Watson and Grint are irrelevant to the play. It's not like they are the characters just because they played them first; they're actors who were cast in a production, just like Parker, Dumezweni and Thornley. Not having seen any of the actors in anything else before, I waited until the play to form my proper opinion.
To me, the casting was spot-on. You know the actors you're watching are special when you're able to forget that you're in a theatre with 1,399 other people and that your legs are cramped because there's literally no leg room. Sam Clemmett (Albus Potter) and Anthony Boyle (Scorpius Malfoy) had such brilliant chemistry, and they both prompted a lot of laughter, as did Paul Thornley (Ron Weasley). It's a fairly dark play in places, but it definitely has more comedy than the films (and possibly the books, too - it's been a while!) Cherrelle Skeete (Rose Granger-Weasley), although we didn't see a lot of her, had the Granger personality nailed. It's not hard to see why Jamie Parker (Harry Potter) landed the lead role; he's completely believable as a man trying and struggling to be a good father with nothing to base it on. His acting was extremely emotive.
Having worked both backstage and onstage for a lot of productions (nothing on a West End scale, obviously) I was completely captivated by the magic happening in front of me and immediately wanted to go backstage to see how it all works. It is insane. The team behind Cursed Child have not played it safe; with all the creative risks they've taken, there's a lot that could go wrong, but the entire production ran smoothly. It was flawless. In particular, I have to point out a scene where Polyjuice Potion is involved. Y'know, the potion that can literally turn a wizard or a witch into someone else entirely? Yeah, that happened right in front of our eyes. I won't go into detail but that scene is so complicated and will have taken so much coordination, and yet the actors made it look effortless. Not to mention the fire, choreography and mid-air stunts...
In addition to that, I love plays where the action is moved away from the stage and into the audience. Highlights include dementors literally flying across the audience from every direction, and creepy writing that magically appears on the ceiling, the walls, and other surfaces at one point in the play.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a triumph. How many books can successfully transcend so many mediums, and so seamlessly? Spellbinding, clever, energetic and darkly funny, you must go to see it. Whether it's in one year or three, I'll definitely be making the trip to watch it again. (Also, I'm a complete theatre geek. Surprise!...)
Will you be seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child? If you've seen it already, what did you think?