The end of last week had been highly anticipated by my group of friends, as 11 months after buying our tickets, we were going to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child! Having managed to stay spoiler-free, we were all excited to see what direction these hugely popular characters would take almost 20 years after we last saw them. As a newcomer to the Potter phenomenon (having only just read the books and watched all the films this summer), this world created by J.K Rowling was very fresh in my mind as I arrived at the Palace Theatre, ticket in hand.
I’m conscious that many others don’t wish to have the secrets told before they experience the show for themselves and so this review will avoid spoilers. If you want those, read the play script!
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the production and was relieved it, to a large extent, lived up to the hype. First and foremost, the acting is on the whole very strong indeed. I’m already an admirer of Jamie Parker (Harry Potter) and Noma Dumezweni (Hermione) due to their previous stage roles and they were both excellent as usual. Noma brings a strength and confidence that is perfect for Hermione, especially in the career we find her in at this stage of her life. Together with Paul Thornley as Ron, they are a great pairing and carry the spirit of Ron and Hermione to the stage. Ron is one of my favourite characters from both the books and films and Thornley is brilliant at conveying his ability to lighten the mood with a witty line. Crucially too, he and Noma have great chemistry.
Completing the iconic trio, Jamie Parker is a superb Harry Potter. It’s not an easy role as in my view he isn’t an easy character (I admit, I find him a little irritating in the books), but Parker’s portrayal of Harry almost 20 years on, struggling to relate to his son and to be a good father is very believable. You see how everything he went through in his early life continues to affect him, but it’s also lovely to see him grow and heal as the story unfolds. Some of my favourite moments centre on Parker, particularly a lovely scene in Part 2 in which he turns to a portrait of Dumbledore for guidance.
I was also surprised by how much I liked Draco Malfoy, which is in large part down to Alex Price’s excellent performance. I found Draco fascinating, especially in later books, as the sense of his conflicted emotions between which side he really wanted to be on, came to the forefront. Here we see a man still haunted by his family’s past, who is determined to be the best father he can be to his only child. I also loved the tension between him and Harry.
As for the younger cast members, we saw one of the understudies for Albus Potter, Tom Mackley. He may not be the lead actor in this role, but he was very good indeed; a lot like Harry as a child, in that he is a rather frustrating character at times, who is reminded by his friend Scorpius that he doesn’t have nearly as bad a life as he thinks! A lot of his most emotional scenes are with Parker and the two had a lovely on-stage relationship as father and son, which made you invest in them and hope they would find a way to see how much the other loves them.
The acting highlight for me though has to be Anthony Boyle as Scorpius Malfoy. He is simply brilliant in the role and the result is that he is by far and away my favourite character in the production (as was the case too for my four friends). Unsurprisingly, being Draco Malfoy’s son hasn’t made his life very easy and the friendship that forms and strengthens between Scorpius and Albus is genuinely lovely. I’m a sucker for stories about the power of friendship and so I found this element of the play particularly moving. Boyle brings so much to the role. He is clumsy, awkward, geeky, funny (his comic timing and mannerisms reminded my friend of a young Rowan Atkinson) and he grows so much from the nervous, introvert Albus meets on the Hogwart’s Express. I’m certainly already looking forward to following Boyle’s career following what is his West End debut.
The production’s effects and illusions, across both parts, by Jamie Harrison are fantastic, with certain moments still a mystery to me as to how they do it. The cast must do a lot of running backstage that’s for sure! For anyone worried that the magic of the wizarding world wouldn’t come across on stage, where effects have to be practical, fear not. There’s plenty of magic to marvel at on display. My highlight – the trick with the phone box entrance to the Ministry. It’s brilliant! There has clearly been a great deal of work involved in convincingly bringing a world where spells and magic are commonplace to life and it was much more impressive than I expected.
Christine Jones’s set is inventive, transforming from a busy train, to the staircases of Hogwart’s and even an underwater lake and the costumes too by Katrina Lindsay are a treat (special mention to Jamie Parker’s cloak – I want one!). Combined with some suitably atmospheric music by Martin Lowe and choreography by Steven Hoggett (the opening of Part 2 being a particular highlight), the overall experience is a joy to watch.
As for the story? Jack Thorne, John Tiffany and J.K Rowling have created a great new chapter in the Harry Potter universe and overall I enjoyed it, although the main goal that Albus and Scorpius are trying to achieve was one I didn’t initially see the point of (it’s hard to write much without spoilers). However, I liked how the past stories of books one to seven are interwoven wonderfully with this new beginning, as well as providing glimpses of the past that make you smile and the inclusion of a few much-loved (and in some cases, feared) familiar faces adds to the magical atmosphere.
If you don’t yet have a ticket, it’s certainly worth the effort to try and secure one (see below for some tips). If you are lucky enough to have tickets, then I’m sure you’ll have a truly wonderful time back in the world that J.K Rowling brought to life. You’ll laugh, you may occasionally be a tiny bit scared and you’ll also likely even shed a tear or two too. Now I just have the challenge of getting tickets to go and watch it all over again!
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child continues to run at the Palace Theatre. Tickets are largely sold out, but there are still ways to pick up a ticket if you are truly dedicated. Here are a few suggestions, plus visit the official website for more information: https://www.harrypottertheplay.com/ticket-information/
- Friday Forty – the least effort option is the weekly online lottery. Click on the enter button at 1 p.m. every Friday to be entered in to the ballot for £40 tickets for shows in the following week.
- Weekly Premium Seat Release – a limited number of premium seats at £95 (or £190 for both parts) are apparently released weekly on the website, so keep an eye on it if you can afford the higher prices.
- Popping by the box office – If you are flexible as to when you go, then it’s worth calling or popping by the box office and checking if there are any odd seats available. I know someone who asked if there was anything at all for July and picked up a stray seat. This will clearly be easier for solo theatregoers or those willing to sit separately.
- Returns – the Palace has 1,400 seats so the chances of returns are good. Picking up a return will involve a queue, so take a flask of hot tea, a blanket, a stool and head for the theatre. I know people who’ve queued in the early morning for any returns released as soon as the box office opens. Others are also queuing during the day, where there is more chance to pick up returns the nearer it gets to the start of the show as people arrive with spares.