and the Cursed Child
a new play by Jack Thorne
Based on an original new story by
J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany
Review by Clive Burton
Wagnerian in scale, winningly whimsical at times and wonderfully winsome at others, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child hits the stage in a spellbinding staging of J K Rowling’s eighth story about the ‘boy’ wizard.
Now grown up and with a family of his own, he materialises in the West End largely thanks to the foresight of co-producers, Maria Freedman (who knows a good thing when she sees it and has the commercial nous to market it on a global scale) and Colin Callender, whose proposal to JK Rowling that a play would be a wonderful way to explore what had become of ‘the boy who lived under the stairs’ in later life – Hogwarts and all.
The Cursed Child is all but sold out until the end of its anticipated run in May 2017, with anecdotal reports of black market tickets reaching astronomical heights on a par with those of Broadway’s current smash, Hamilton - demand fuelled by a social media ‘Keep the Secrets’ campaign and badges coaxing theatregoers not to spoil the show for others by encouraging everyone to keep schtum about its serpentine plotlines and miraculous illusions and magic.
Any stage production would have had several hurdles to overcome – which The Cursed Child does brilliantly by creating a storyline that picks up from where we left Harry 19 years earlier; further developing characters and situations that we have come to know and love from the books and movies into flesh and blood, and challenging the formidable CGI effects that made the films so utterly memorable.
Presented as a pair of full-length parts (each of around two and a half hours with a 20 minute interval, and a break of two and a half hours between the two shows), Jack Thorne’s fast-moving new and original script is thrillingly directed by John Tiffany who ensures that everything springs so convincingly to life from page to stage. (And, for those needing to brush up on the Potter oeuvre, the programme helpfully contains a four- page summary of the previous stories, along with a helpful glossary of the most commonly used vocabulary.)
Thanks to his inexhaustible stagecraft and the legere de main of Jamie Harrison’s illusions, what we (want to) see is what we actually get – however implausibly mind-boggling the results.
But, as to the show itself, I am sworn against revealing too many ‘spoilers’: what I can say is that the stupendous magic starts right from the very start on the infamous Platform 9 ¾, where The Cursed Child begins almost 20 years after the final novel finishes and Harry (now 37) is a father of three children; Hermione Granger has married Ron Weasley and they, too, have offspring of their own.
Although there is quite a bit of time-travelling involved thanks to the later use of Time-Turners to – whoops, I nearly gave away too much there! - The Cursed Child opens with the children of the two families – Harry and Ginny Potter’s middle child, Albus and the Weasley’s daughter, Rose, leaving for their first term at Hogwarts.
In the first of many ‘how did they do it?’ magical transformations, their everyday clothes are transmogrified into school gowns in the twinkling of an eye as they rush to break through the wall that will allow them access to the Potter Express. Blink – literally – and you will miss it!
We follow them on their journey as they decide where to sit and, crucially, with whom.
This is especially relevant as one of their fellow-passengers turns out to be Scorpius Malfoy, (Draco’s son): some of the other characters also materialise from a parallel universe whose existence reveals itself as a very different – and darker – place by the end of Part I, with designer Katrina Lindsay’s ghostly Dementors ratcheting up the sense of foreboding as they flit menacingly through the auditorium.
The importance of nurture versus nature informs a not-insignificant back-story in which we see how parental discord blighted the younger lives of not only Harry and his son Albus, but also Scorpius and his father, Draco, revealing the extent of Albus’s loneliness and unpopularity during his early years at school and the effects it has on his father, Harry.
Psychologically, then The Cursed Child, provides many telling insights into its main characters that affect them as they have to make far-reaching life choices as to which paths to ultimately explore: ‘ultimately’ being the key word here as their decision sometimes involves life-or-death alternatives.
Without giving too much away, a deeper understanding of the convoluted plots of both plays would be achieved by brushing up on The Goblet of Fire and the elements in the Triwizard Tournament that killed Cedric Diggory but spared the life of Harry (check out the useful programme crib on Year IV.)
The very particular worlds of Harry Potter pere and Albus fils are brought to startling life by designer Christine Jones: sometimes by the simplest of means and at others by the most intricate of fantastical conceits as in the ‘living library’- and the recurring symbolism of portable staircases in multiple sequences that recall the impossibility of solving the Penrose stairs optical illusion.
Lit by Neil Austen, the stage pictures spring to life chillingly or thrillingly as the plot dictates and his lighting of some of the most baffling illusions is no less than masterly.
But there is little fear that the cast might be outshone by the lighting (and other technical wizardry) as the stars and ensemble are at the top of their game.
Anthony Boyle’s volatile Scorpius is pitched on a knife edge between man and boy, his voice liable to crack disconcertingly through stress at any time, while his friend – or does their relationship perhaps go deeper than it at first appears? - Albus (Sam Clemmett) personifies the teenage angst with traumatic childhood memories haunting him from the start, and manifested in the unsettling nightmares experienced by his father, Jamie Parker’s Harry.
Like Albus, Harry is concerned at the effect his former life as a global ‘superstar’ may have on his introverted son and Parker captures this underlying anxiety in a carefully-controlled performance that hints all is not well beneath his ebullient exterior he has so carefully cultivated.
A self-confident Noma Dumezweni impresses with the stamp of authority she assumes in her role of Minister of Magic with a remit to oversee both the black and white manifestations of the art.
As a grounded Ron Weasley, Paul Thornley’s joker in the pack (pondering whether to have a baby or a holiday as he endeavours to quash the first sign of a particularly uncomfortable situation) signally contrasts with the spritely air-bound oracle of Esther Smith’s Delphi Diggory whose (literal) flights of fantasy have to be seen to be believed. You never doubt that she has an innate ability to take off and land at will and she makes an invaluable contribution to Part II.
Which is about as much as I feel comfortable in revealing about this astonishing piece of theatre which achieves landmark status on so many fronts.
The pure magic of The Cursed Child takes the Harry Potter saga to fantastical new heights of enjoyment.
See footnote re Cast Changes
effective from 23 May 2018
Palace Theatre, 109-113 Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D 8AY
Part One, 2 hours and 40 minutes (incl 20 min interval)
Part Two, 2 hours and 35 minutes (incl 20 min interval)
Previews: £10, £25, £40, £45 or £50 if bought separately; £20, £50, £80, £90 or £100 for a seat for both Part One and Part Two of the play.
Performances after opening from 3 August 2016: £15, £35, £50, £60 or £65 if bought separately; £30, £70, £100, £120 or £130 for a seat for both Part One and Part Two of the play.
Reduced price previews will begin on Tuesday 7 June 2016 and the Opening performances of Part One and Part Two of the play will be on Saturday 30 July 2016 at 2pm and 7.30pm.
In addition four special preview performances are planned for the end of May 2016. Details of when these performances will go on sale will be announced at a later date.
From 6 July 2016, the production will commence its regular performance schedule: Monday – no performance, Tuesday – no performance, Wednesday - 2pm Part One & 7.30pm Part Two, Thursday – 7.30pm Part One, Friday – 7.30pm Part Two, Saturday – 2pm Part One & 7.30pm Part Two, Sunday – 1pm Part One & 6.30pm Part Two.
Every Friday at 1pm, there will be a weekly release online of 20 tickets for each performance. These will be for the following week’s performances and situated in the stalls. Tickets will be £30 during previews and £40 after the show opens to purchase a seat for both Part One and Part Two.
There will be a daily ticket lottery, with 20 tickets in the stalls at £40 to purchase a seat for both Part One and Part Two. These will be available in person at the Palace Theatre box office on the day of the performance.
Age recommendation - The show is suitable for ages 10 and up.
For Patrons with physical access needs, please call 0330 333 4410 or email CursedChildAccess@nimaxtheatres.com
Please note, there are no general ticket sales on this number.
For a further summary of booking information please visit the official play website HarryPotterthePlay.com/tickets
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child also confirms the dates for its special access performances. On 18 January 2017 the matinee (Part One) and evening performance (Part Two) will be captioned and on 4 February 2017 both the matinee (Part One) and evening performance (Part Two) will be audio described. These performances will go on sale on Monday 29 February 2016. To book access performances, please call 0330 333 4410 (please note, there are no general ticket sales on this number) or email , which are also contact details for patrons with physical access needs. Further special access performances will be confirmed at a later date.
109-113 Shaftesbury Avenue
London W1D 8AY
0330 333 4813
From 23 May 2018
Jamie Ballard will play Harry Potter,
Susie Trayling as Ginny Potter
Joe Idris-Roberts as their son Albus Potter.
Jonathan Case will play Scorpius Malfoy.
Thomas Aldridgecontinues as Ron Weasley
Rakie Ayola as Hermione Granger
Helen Aluko as their daughter Rose Granger-Weasley.
James Howard continues as Draco Malfoy.
They are joined by cast members
Ryan J Mackay,
Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn,
Mark Theodore and
complete the 42-strong company playing a variety of characters, including seven children who will alternate two roles.