Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts 1 and 2 (Palace Theatre)

Posted: July 2, 2017 in Theatre

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Producer Sonia Friedman claims that her Harry Potter… extravaganza generated so great a demand for tickets on the first day of sale that it could have run for 2,000 years. If the time travel machines used by Harry and others in the show go into mass production, this information could be useful, but, even if not, what it tells us is that here we have something that pretty well defines “critic proof”. From a commercial viewpoint, there was no need for it to be even moderately good, let alone as astonishingly good as it actually is, but creator JK Rowling, playwright Jack Thorne and director John Tiffany all have their lofty reputations to defend and there is never the slightest hint of laziness at any stage. The show is now into its second cast, but it is hard to imagine that the first could have been any better.

Rowling has a gift for merging common adolescent angst from the real world and the fantasy of her parallel universe. The former gives emotional power and depth to her enthralling storytelling. Thorne taps into her vision perfectly and all the familiar ingredients are here in spades, possibly captured more vividly than on screen. Theatre can generate magic that leaves CGI standing and Tiffany (with the help of Jamie Harrison) conjures a box of tricks that make the eyes pop – transformations, flying objects and a library scene in part 1 that defies belief. This is not a musical, but Imogen Heap’s background music adds immensely to the drama and spectacle and movement devised by Steven Hoggett brings excitement and energy to many scenes.

Harry (Jamie Glover) is now 40, living a quiet life with wife Ginny (Emma Lowndes), but his scar is starting to hurt and the owls are flying. The couple has three children, of which rebellious 14-year-old Albus Severus (Theo Ancient) is proving to be the most troublesome. He is a rubbish wizard, hates Hogwarts and even the Sorting Hat spots the difference from Harry by placing him in Slytherin House. To make things seemingly worse, he befriends the boy that no one else likes, Scorpius Malfoy (Samuel Blenkin), son of the sinister Draco (James Howard). Wrong as it may be to single out any individual, it has to be said that young Blenkin is absolutely brilliant, possessing an instinctive feel for comedy, and it is his antics as Scorpius that gets the loudest laughs and cheers throughout.

Rakie Ayola as Hermione and Thomas Aldridge as Ron, give perfect adult versions of their characters’ childhood selves. They are now married, with daughter Rose (Helen Aluko), a schoolmate for Albus and Scorpius, making up the triumphant triumvirate for a new generation. Beyond this I am not allowed to go for fear of evil spells as a penalty for giving plot spoilers, but, with time travel being involved, many familiar characters re-appear.  What else is there to say? Well, Tiffany, Thorne, Christine Jones (sets), Katrina Lindsay (costumes), Neil Austin (lighting) and Gareth Fry (sound) already have their Olivier Awards, so nothing needs to be added there. One sad closing thought: as I rarely go to shows for a second time, it seems highly unlikely that I shall ever see inside the Palace Theatre again.

Performance date: 28 June 2017

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