“At it’s heart, we hope that the play reflects the beauty of theatre – the simple art of storytelling in its purest form.”
[Note: For the sake of #keepthesecrets this is a spoiler free review]
Like pretty much every Harry Potter fan on the planet, when the script was released for the “eighth story”, I drowned in a sea of nostalgia as I sat and consumed the entire thing in the intended four hours. J.K.Rowling had spent many years eluding the character’s fates beyond the historic “nineteen years later” but nothing had ever been imortalised in ink. But after the rush of emotions at new Potter content subsided and I took the time to really process it, I found a lot of issues with it. In fact, I really didn’t like it at all. A lot of things felt cheap to me, like they’d been thrown in for fan service; and I was not alone as many other Potter fans expressed how it felt like fan fiction, while others defended it by saying it was intended to be seen, not read. So I cast it aside, making my jokes here and there, until my friend discovered that the £20 per part tickets I’d thought were tied to the “Friday Fourty” lottery were in fact purchasable through regular means. At £40 in total, despite my reservations, I said yes.
We were fortunate enough to get a two show day, meaning we saw Part One in the afternoon, followed by Part Two in the evening. Cheap seats get you the cheap views, so we were right up the balcony at the very top, with limited leg room and some restricted viewing. It got a tad annoying when people leaned forward for parts of scenes/actor placement at the front of stage and my view became restricted even more, but with the familiarity of the actors voices, and a prior knowledge of the show, I was able to still follow it when they were obscured.
There are parts of the plot that I fully accept, don’t get me wrong (Harry’s PTSD is dealt with fantastically, Albus dealing with the pressure of a famous father, Albus & Scorpius’ friendship) but many aspects directly damage the original Potter series in terms of the timeline of events. And it’s something I’ve never been quite able to get past.
I tried to put these reservations aside going in because so many people I know who have seen the show said the visuals are incredible. Harry Potter And The Cursed Child has won more awards, just in London alone, than I can count and has been praised endlessly for its technical uses and staging. This love is very much well placed. The stage has to work for TWO separate plays and with the number of sets and plots, it blows my mind that this play does eight shows a week but half of them are different to the others. The magic never felt cheap or overused to satisfy its pre-existing audience; with the use of many familiar spells it felt right at home in the piece. So many scenes and little tricks had my jaw practically on the floor. While the books had your imagination, and the films had magic added in post, stage has nowhere to hide. And minus a very very small number due to the angle of our seats, I am totally convinced it’s all real magic. The technical, stage and visual effects are so expertly done that it’s smooth and slick. The people involved in bringing that to life deserve every good word and possible award. Part of me really wants to know how it was achieved, but the other part of me wants to blissfully continue as if what I witnessed was all real.
Sadly, I found the acting quite weak. I think a lot of this is to do with the fact that characters such as Harry Potter are so well known through their previous portrayals that, even with new material, its really hard to deviate and put your own spin on it because fans are expecting what they already know. The new characters felt freer because there isn’t anything placed upon them. No one could tell them they’re “doing it wrong” because… well… it’s never been done before. The absolute standout for me in both parts was Jonathan Chase as Scorpius Malfoy. His delivery was just perfect and his timing often had me chuckling away in my seat and he was able to give a convincing emotional performance when needed. He was an absolute delight, but everyone around him just felt a little off.
I’m glad I took the opportunity to experience the story as it was intended to be seen, but it just didn’t make me feel how Potter normally does. I fully appreciate the amount of work, both on and off stage, that goes into continually making this the success it is. The show has no shortage of fans who love it, I just happen to not be one of those people.