It’s not been an easy few weeks. Ever since I was lucky enough to be at a preview performance of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, friends have been asking questions – some blatant, others a bit more subtle – to try and find out what happens.
Unfortunately for them, I was handed a yellow #KeeptheSecrets badge on my way out of the Palace Theatre. And this is something I take extremely seriously, so my lips have remained firmly sealed – and this review will be no exception. No spoilers here, I’m afraid.
But here’s what I can say about the eighth Harry Potter story: it’s awesome. Created by the dream team of J.K. Rowling, playwright Jack Thorne and director John Tiffany, Cursed Child is funny, sad, scary, dramatic, magical and jaw-dropping, with all the suspense and excitement of a new story, but also the comforting familiarity of stepping back into a world we thought we’d seen the last of. This means that while it stands independently as a new chapter, if you’re not up to speed on the events of the books, I’d recommend doing a bit of research before you go – if only so you can join in the universal audience reactions to certain events. (There’s something pretty special about hearing 1,400 people gasp in perfect unison.)
The production also boasts a fabulous cast, led by Jamie Parker, Paul Thornley and Noma Dumezweni, who are spot on as Harry, Ron and Hermione. The trio are just as we remember them – Hermione the high achiever, Harry the unwilling legend, and Ron… who’s just Ron, and still my favourite – but now grappling with grown-up problems and emotions. Meanwhile the children are, naturally, having adventures of their own (well it is Hogwarts, after all), and Sam Clemmett and Anthony Boyle step effortlessly into the new roles of Harry’s son Albus and Draco Malfoy’s son Scorpius, two characters living in the shadow of their fathers’ past. While some cast members may have more lines than others, though, this show is very much a team effort, with many actors doubling or even tripling up on parts (several of them instantly recognisable from the books and movies), and not one of them disappoints.
Oh right, and there’s magic. Any fears that the magic might have been a bit lame without the benefit of CGI were laid to rest within minutes, and the main question anyone was asking by the interval of Part One was “But… but how?!” Things happen on that stage that literally can’t be explained by Muggles like me – so I won’t even try.
Perhaps what’s most impressive about Cursed Child is that in many ways, despite the big cast and the amazing effects, it doesn’t feel like a huge-scale production. Some scenes are actually incredibly simple, encouraging us to use our imaginations to flesh them out – and even for those of us sitting way up in the gods, there’s a certain intimacy about the play that shows director John Tiffany really understands how attached his audience are to the characters and story. At the risk of sounding cheesy, it’s almost like everyone in the theatre is part of a big family, all there to catch up with mutual friends. The show is an experience that begins the moment we step inside and receive a warm welcome (and later, welcome back) from the staff, and the theatre itself even feels a bit like Hogwarts, with its twisty stone staircases and slightly creepy sculptures. I’m actually not surprised everybody kept the secrets during the show’s previews – by the time you leave and receive your badge, you’re well and truly a member of the club.
Now that the script’s been published, no doubt spoilers will start to leak out, but my advice, if you’re planning to see the show, is to avoid them. Don’t read the script; don’t ask questions. Just wait until you can experience Cursed Child in all its spectacular brilliance… and thank me later.