THEATRE REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child ★★★★
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Palace Theatre, London
Wednesday 3rd January 2018
Being born into the world in the late 90’s and reading from the early 2000’s, I am unable to remember a time where Harry Potter wasn't a part of my childhood. Along with my siblings, I can remember buying battery powered wands and running round the house trying to zap each other, and though I watched all the movies starring Daniel Radcliffe as the wizarding boy, I was never a fully fledged fan, admitting right now that I am one of those people who haven't read the books. Cursed Child, the eighth book in the series and set 19 years after the events of Deathly Hallows, is a little different in the fact that instead of a film, writer J.K Rowling, alongside Jack Thorne (Junkyard), have brought the wizarding world of Hogwarts to life on stage at The Palace Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue, to huge critical acclaim, and with nine Olivier Awards to Its name, it's the most anticipated production in years, now arguably alongside Hamilton.
Though having now been in the West End for 18 months, the hashtag #keepthesecrets is still vital and something that this review will oblige with, but with this comes little that we can actually critique. What we can say is that the story picks up with Harry and Ginny's son, Albus Potter (Theo Ancient), starting his first year at Hogwarts alongside with Rose Granger-Weasley (Helen Aluko), the child of Hermione and Ron, and finally Scorpius Malfoy (Samuel Blenkin), the son of Draco Malfoy. Ancient and Blenkin share the most stage time together and are a real delight to watch, especially Blenkin, who personally steals every scene he's in with his eccentric take on Scorpius which never faults, and watching him on stage in this production feels like we are witnessing a real star in the making and only wish huge success in his future.
Taking on the titular role of Harry Potter is Jamie Glover, with Emma Lowndes portraying wife Ginny Potter. Though they both put in a reasonable performance, I do feel like the script is a huge letdown in not giving enough characterisation to these creations who we have grown up to love as children. Lowndes especially gets the backend of it with very little to really grab onto, making her role in the story sadly forgettable. There is also a sense that the playtext is only serving the purpose to please the fans by including many scenes which only those who are diehard fans will be excited by. Yes, if you have watched the movies you will also get a thrill by these scenes, but saying anymore would give too much away about the plot.
Having this story told in two parts, mostly being able to catch both on the same day, it's a huge undertaking from the creative team to make sure the audience are engaged as possible, with a cliffhanger in Part One, to be able to encourage them to return for Part Two, and as far as cliffhangers go on any scale, TV or film, transferring this to a theatre is no easy effort, and if you were to have a ticket for Part Two in what may be days or weeks, I wouldn't be surprised if hair was pulled from the scalps as without giving anything away, I have never been more gripped with genuine fear as I was at the end of Part One, and I had to wait agonizingly for hours to find out just how things were going to be resolved. This was further heightened throughout the production though in scenes that made my inner child squeal with delight, especially when the Grand Staircase was on stage.
Overall, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is undoubtedly a triumph on the West End with sales soaring through the roof and booking completely sold out, but when the text is looked at in detail, sometimes what feels like is only pleasing the fans, may not be enough for others.