Created by: JK Rowling, Jack Thorne & John Tiffany Starring: Jamie Parker, Paul Thornley, Noma Dumezweni, Alex Price, Sam Clemmit & Anthony Boyle
Whenever I read a book or listen to a piece of audio drama I – like nearly everyone else – can visualise what I imagine the setting and characters are like. I’m sure that there’s a term for that somewhere but this form of visualisation helps me to become much more immersed in the world being presented through written and spoken word.
So when on screen or on TV adaption of that work is released, it can have an… interesting effect on those aforementioned ideas. For example, my image of Ned Stark in A Game of Thrones was very different from what was presented by walking spoiler Sean Bean in the TV adaption. Other times it can be spot on, like Alan Rickman playing Professor Snape in the Harry Potter series.
These days, I treat the films as something that… happened, rather than something to be watched over and over again. I enjoyed them at the time, and would happily tell of my experiences of watching it for the first time, but my love for the series is and always will be in the books that they were based off.
And I’ve already talked about Fantastic Beasts, no need to mention it here.
So now we come to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, set nineteen years after the events of Deathly Hallows (or straight after depending on the epilogue really..) this on stage production continues the story set in this magical world from some new characters as well as old. Harry’s son Albus Severus now has to find his own way in and out of Hogwarts, becoming a little too like his father and very different from him at the same time. The narrative is weaved with twists and familiar faces as the drama unfolds on stage. I realise that this isn’t exactly a summary but you can look it up if you wanted to, for my part I want to “Keep the secrets” as much as I can.
Myself and my sisters booked to view this play nearly two years ago and were not disappointed at all with what we saw. Did we think it was great? Absolutely. There’s a lot of stuff to talk about here so we may as well dive in.
So let’s start with the cast; they made some excellent choices here. Since the end of the Deathly Hallows film I had wondered how grown up versions of our heroes would be if we carried on the story and I wasn’t disappointed. From Harry battling his own personal daemons as well as dark wizards off stage, to Hermione continuing to be Hermione, I’m very pleased with how the characters were played. Some may see the use of new actors to play them as a step away from their film counterparts; well they are, but I think that’s a good thing. They’re both similar and different from them, but I could definitely believe that they were the Harry, Ron and Hermione that I’d come to follow in the past. I may have found Harry a bit more whiney than usual in some places, but I still liked his performance nonetheless.
And they aren’t the only ones that are a highlight in this performance; their children make for interesting characters to follow too; I’ve mentioned how similar and different that Albus was to his father and the same is true of his friend Scorpius Malfoy, who is very much the best character in this play.
In fact, both him and Draco Malfoy were amazing and hilarious to watch, giving a mix of crazy and sarcasm that made me just want to see more of them. It was actually surprising how much I was supporting them more than Harry and the others. (hence the above hashtag) I guess a lot can change after almost 20 years…
There are other characters too of course, but I’ll leave off there by saying that they are excellent to watch, though I did have some reservations about how the story was told.
The story that the play tells, as I said, takes place a number of years after Deathly Hallows. The story itself is passable enough, it has enough interesting things going on and some pretty cool moments in order to keep viewers invested. Pacing was a bit of an issue as well, though it did pick up once the first act neared its end.
I will say that it isn’t the strongest story in the world of Harry Potter; it seems to be more of a backtrack to previous stories rather than anything particularly new. In many ways it feels like fanfiction, high quality fanfiction but still.
And hey, I’m not against that sort of thing – hi, I like Star Wars and acknowledge that the current films can retread old ground a bit too much – its just that there are times when telling the same story as before isn’t enough. Not that this is the case here, as I’ve said I really like Cursed Child, but it’s something to keep in mind.
What really kept me invested while watching the play was the stage direction; it was a sight to behold. Being a stage production, Cursed Child takes a more practical approach to the magical world. Weird as it may sound, I actually kind of prefer it to the CGI effects of the films. There’s just something more real about how magic and other effects are performed on the stage. And the effects used to pull this off are some of the best that I’ve seen. While I don’t know whether stage direction in general has improved over the years, I will say that if this is any indication, then it has come a long way. There were a lot of moments where I thought “how did they do that?” and also genuine fear at one point. But once again, because I must “keep the secrets” I can’t describe that moment in particular detail; if you want me to describe it let me know.
Overall, I really really really liked Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I think it was a fine addition to the wizarding world’s story. Not something to be repeated or carried on I think, there are other stories that could be told, but still a delightful experience… for Harry Potter fans anyway, it may not be the most approachable play ever. There were a lot of times when I overheard other viewers explaining to their friends what happened in the story. Now one has to question why those people went in the first place if they didn’t know anything about the story of the series, but its something worth noting nonetheless.
If you’re a fan of Harry Potter and want to watch a new story in the series, then I’d recommend watching this, or booking it to watch it in a few years time, giving the queue for bookings…
Oh and the script edition that was released last year? I’m not sure I’d have released that in the first place.