Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at Palace Theatre

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.

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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.

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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.


Can’t see the map on iPhone? Try turning your phone to landscape and that should sort it. I don’t know why but I’m working on it… 😉

Theatre round-up: 3 August 2015

Bit later than usual, but here’s this week’s theatre round-up, and what an interesting week it was. It also included another Edinburgh preview, so more on that next week.

Impossible

Escapology, mind-reading, card tricks and sleight of hand. Women get cut in half and cars disappear. Members of the audience are invited to lie on a bed of nails, and a bald man fires a crossbow at his wife. It’s all in a day’s work for the eight illusionists who make up the cast of Impossible, a magical extravaganza directed by BAFTA winner Anthony Owen at the Noel Coward Theatre. It’s full of jaw-dropping moments – I figured out one tiny bit of one trick and I was really proud of myself. As for the rest, I’ve no idea.

Sure, it’s all a bit macho, and it would have been nice to see a man get cut in half for a change. And we know how all the tricks are going to end, but that doesn’t stop them being amazing. This is a genuinely incredible show and really good fun (and only mildly terrifying at times).

Impossible review for LondonTheatre1.com

American idiot

Ah, finally a jukebox musical based on a band from my generation… American Idiot is a show based on the 2004 Green Day concept album, and telling the story of three childhood friends in the wake of 9/11. It’s not for the faint-hearted or easily offended, with scenes of drug use, violence and explicit language, but then again, was anyone really expecting anything different? It’s not your typical jukebox musical, but personally, I’m not a massive fan of them anyway, so that’s okay. The show is fast, furious and full of energy, and I loved it.

And it’s got me back listening to Green Day again, so that can’t be a bad thing.

American Idiot review for LondonTheatre1.com

Secret theatre

Well, what can I say? Not much, actually, because it’s a secret. It’s not like me to go and see a play without knowing what it is, so I was feeling a bit anxious about my trip to the Secret Theatre last night. But I needn’t have worried, because not only did the play turn out to be a story I knew and loved, it was also really fun. A totally immersive theatre experience, from the moment you arrive you’re part of the show; be prepared to interact with the cast, and to do a lot of walking from location to location.

Though the second act could probably have done with being a bit shorter, I loved both the experience and the play, and might even consider trying secret theatre again some time. Which, considering I don’t do surprises, is quite a compliment.

Secret Theatre review for Carn’s Theatre Passion

This week's theatre

This week’s theatre:

Dirty Dancing, Marlowe Theatre