Harry Potter and the Cursed Child ★★★★☆
Palace Theatre, London
Director: John Tiffany
Writers: J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne & John Tiffany
Cast: Samuel Blenkin, Theo Ancient, Jamie Glover, Rakie Ayola, James Howard, Thomas Aldridge, Helen Aluko, David Annen, Annabel Baldwin, Sandy McDade, Emma Lowndes, Rupert Henderson, Elizabeth Hill
It has been over a year since I purchased my tickets for Parts One and Two of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and my visit to the gorgeous Palace Theatre was a few days before Christmas so the magical visit had the added bonus of being festive too. Cursed Child lived up to my expectations…and more! The story, for those that have read the play, know that it fails to reach the heights of the Harry Potter series, but it is still an enjoyable escapade which I don’t treat as canon. However, despite the shortcomings in regards to the plot, the play’s production value is through the roof, and that helps to give the magic spark that is the hallmark of Rowling’s wizarding world.
Albus Potter is Harry’s youngest son and he struggles to live in a world where his father is the hero of the wizarding world. He goes to Hogwarts with the burden of carrying on the Potter name, at a point in his childhood where he feels disillusioned and an outcast in his own family. The Cursed Child tells the story of Albus, and Draco Malfoy’s son Scorpius, during their early years at Hogwarts, their friendship with one another, the struggle to bond with their fathers, and the need for them to step out of the shadow of their fathers.
Scorpius (Blenkin) was the most memorable character, and the way the character was played by Blenkin took me by surprise, as, he stole the show and was so theatrical, however, at times, his performance came across as a bit pantomime-y and overly comedic due to the fact that almost all of his lines elicited laughs from the audience. There were moments in Part One where it seemed a bit like a stand-up comedy show. In all honesty, every single character in the play had at least one line that brought the audience into a fit of laughter. Despite those reservations, he was by far the most engaging character on stage, and he stole most scenes which he was in- either for light relief, or for the pure emotion that he displayed to Albus. If the comedy was toned down a notch or five, then Blenkin’s performance would be a 10/10 as he performed the emotional moments so wonderfully well.
The Albus (Ancient) and Scorpius friendship is the main focus of Cursed Child, which tells the heart-warming story of these two boys whose fathers despised each other, but these two have a bond which far exceeds anything either of them have with anyone else, despite the best efforts of their parents. Albus is frustrated with his relationship with Harry, how things are going for him at Hogwarts, and with life in general. Then one day, on the way to Hogwarts, Albus decides to embark on an adventure of his own, to make amends for an unnecessary death that happened in order for ‘The Boy Who Lived’ to carry on living and to become the hero that the world knows, to increasing irritation to Albus. Of course, things don’t quite go to plan, and in the ensuing aftermath, Albus and Scorpius have to use their wits, courage and quick-thinking to make things right.
A special paragraph of this review is dedicated to both the Set Design and Illusions teams that were undoubtedly the star performers of this production. The magical elements, like wand magic, time-turning, and magic doorways were exceptionally well done and it appeared so… so… so… real! The simple magic tricks, like, neatening up papers on a desk, are performed so effortlessly that the magic seems like the wizarding world that Rowling created is actually real. The only explanation that I can attribute to the the magical elements is that the Illusions team are all illusionists like Derren Brown. To compliment the illusions, the Set Design team have built a set that is by far the best set I have ever seen! The seamlessness of the changes helped to create a flowing production that wasn’t held up by men on stage moving tables, chairs and furniture at any point. The set was an extra character in this production, and it was every inch in the same vein as the Potter and Fantastic Beasts films in terms of quality and wonderment.
Special thanks to Set Designer Christine Jones, Illusions & Magic Jamie Harrison, Associate Set Designer Brett J. Banakis, and Illusions & Magic Associate Chris Fisher!
The familiar trio of Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley were very different characters in comparison to the original book series, and indeed from the film series too. Harry is a father that is frustrated about not being able to get through to Albus, and his struggles with fatherhood translate to Albus. He is much angrier in Cursed Child than in any of the original books, perhaps living the life as ‘The Boy Who Lived’ has taken its toll on him. Hermione has a totally different personality, gone was the intelligence (time-turner decision), and gone was her friendly outlook (she came across as severe), the only thing that remained of book Hermione was her ambition. Finally, Ron, poor Ron was reduced to a mere comedy side-show, adding very little to the story. A once great trio, despite featuring heavily, were a shadow of their former selves, Glover, Ayola and Aldridge’s performances were nothing extraordinary and they were outshone by the younger cast members, however, the poor script might have something to do with that.
The Cursed Child is an interesting play, Part One was outstanding but Part Two trailed off in conjunction with the poorly written plot. The miraculous Set Design and Illusions team is what made this theatre experience truly memorable, the abiding memory I have of Cursed Child is of the excellent magic that these creative teams somehow managed to conjure up. Albus and Scorpius’ friendship was also a wonderful thing to watch, and there were some really lovely moments of them together. Although I don’t consider this to be a part of Rowling’s Potter and Fantastic Beasts world, it is a nice thing to have, a bit like fanfiction written by Rowling.