Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Posted by Laurence Green

Laurence Green reviews Jack Thorne's adaptation of the spellbinding theatrical story that is Harry Potter and the Cursed Child


The boy wizard is back and he’s no longer a boy in Harry Potter and Cursed Child (Palace Theatre), marking the iconic hero’s stage debut.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and a father of three school-age children. While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes darkness comes from unexpected places.

Adapted by Jack Thorne from a J.K Rowling short story, the two-part play –running at almost 5 ½ hours in total- may start 19 years from the end of the last Harry Potter novel, but really it returns to the story’s very beginning. Set in a world in which good and evil are in perpetual combat, it has a Dickensian sweep and momentum to storytelling, although the dense and complex narrative is far too complicated to summarize and at times, to follow. Suffice to say it is built on a fantasy that most of us indulge from early childhood: what if we could rewrite our own histories?

John Tiffany’s finely orchestrated production is often most impressive. Among the suburb special effects, one of the best involves characters instantly assuming new identities after a shot of polyjuice potion. There are explosions to accompany spells, levitating broomsticks, books which literally fly off the shelves and open as if by magic, phone booths where people vanish before our very eyes and a couple of chilling sequences in which soul-sucking Dementors swoop across the stage.

Indeed this is a production that revels in the aura of possibility lurking in Victorian splendor of theatre itself, a bygone era of smoke and mirrors. The sight of a tightly drilled ensemble- sometimes whirling in eerie synchronized motion, capes flapping like bat wings, music pounding- lends the right cohesive feel to the proceedings.

The cast, in fact work wonders to bring the time-travelling plot fully to life. Jamie Parker makes a studious and likable Harry, haunted by dreams of his abusive childhood, Sam Clemmett an engaging Albus, the self-absorbed son with whom Harry has a far from relaxed bond, while relative newcomer Anthony Boyle provides the perfect foil as the endearingly goofy Scorpious, son of Harry’s former Bully-boy rival Draco Malfoy. Poppy Miller is an all too sensible Ginny, wife to Harry; Noma Dumezweni gives us an older, calmer Hermione and Paul Thornley a genial ginger Ron, possessed of a gargantuan appetite.

The Harry Potter books have sold more than 450 million copies since 1997 and been adapted into eight films. This stage version looks like continuing the success of the Potter phenomenon and even the uninitiated should find this a magical experience. Certainly a spellbinding theatrical experience!

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Showing at the Palace Theatre until 27 May 2017

Box Office: 0330 3334813

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