Right, so it’s been a few days since I saw Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and I’ve had time to read the script and gather my thoughts. I can now give a proper answer when people ask how it was, rather than just a massive grin and half-finished, garbled words in a language that may or may not be English.
Firstly, this is a review of the play currently running in London’s West End, not the book which is not a book. Secondly, I’ve split this review into two parts (like the play! Ahahahahaha): a spoiler-free review, which follows below, and a more in-depth review here.
I have now both seen the play and read the script and can say I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. However, I can see why some people were disappointed by the script: it doesn’t live up to what you see onstage, and it’s hard to enjoy it as the next part of Harry’s story with only a few stage directions and your imagination. Even with the onstage experience, there were a few things I had problems with, only a few of which I can mention in this post since they’re spoiler-y. #KeepTheSecrets
The most memorable parts are the staging and special effects. These are some of the cleverest I’ve seen in ANY theatre show, to the point where I was like… ‘Are there actually witches and wizards working backstage? Because I have no idea how they’re doing this.’
I won’t say exactly what happens, but the way they enter the Ministry of Magic is bizarrely perfect – I CANNOT for the life of me tell how it was done. I mean, I’ve got ideas, but how they pulled it off so smoothly I’ll never know.
They have some dancing elements in the show (a couple of times I wondered if they were about to burst into song) which works great for the moving staircases. However, there’s a montage of students practising magic where they also dance around, and I didn’t like this at all. It felt silly and childish, like when you learn ‘spells’ at the WB studio tour.
The set design was excellent, although I wish Hogwarts itself had been grander. What blew me away with the staging was that it felt so right – it didn’t feel like a homage or a fan production, but it was like seeing into the real wizarding world. It had the goofy touches from the books that weren’t present in the films, like when a moving portrait is sneaking about behind Hermione and she just zaps him away with her wand.
Speaking of Hermione, Noma Dumezweni played her to perfection. Without giving away the plot, she essentially plays several different Hermiones, and each time, she captured the essence of the character we all know and love. (Sorry, Emma Watson. You didn’t do that.) Some of the credit must go to Jack Thorne as well, who gave his Hermione a mix of stern, goofy, responsible and funny traits that felt like she’d been lifted straight from the books. She was the character he captured the best.
Two other actors (and characters) that I thought were top-notch were Draco and Scorpius Malfoy. It was so interesting to see Draco’s development from the smug, snivelling blond in the books, into an outwardly confident, inwardly anxious, adult who battles with the obstacles the Malfoy name puts in his way. Alex Price was perfection, giving us the typical Malfoy swagger alongside with the more warm-hearted, loving father we all hoped Draco would become. He even manages to get along somewhat with Harry, despite a few setbacks – and their dynamic was one of my favourite things about the play. The childhood rivalry is still there and they revert to teenagers whenever they meet – and unsurprisingly, Hermione is the only one who appears to have fully grown up.
Scorpius could not be more different from the Malfoys we’ve known before. He is geeky, goofy and adorable. He’s bullied by his peers but is just happy to have made a friend at Hogwarts, even if it’s only one. Anthony Boyle’s acting was exceptional, and definitely the best out of the younger cast. Really, he was the main character, not Albus, and his development arc was played out brilliantly in the short space of time this medium allows.
I didn’t like Albus much, and I don’t think I’m alone in this. He reminded me of angsty Book 5 Harry, which may have been on purpose to show how alike they are, but it served only to make me not care much about him. I was a lot more interested in Scorpius’ storyline, and didn’t even feel that Albus had redeemed himself by the end. In fact, I felt like the blame was mostly laid at Harry’s door.
Here’s a few other things I wanted to mention:
- Ron was great, but there’s not a lot to say about him. He’s funny but not very important to the plot, so we don’t see as much of him as Harry and Hermione (who, by the way, make a great team). He is so lovable though, and I enjoyed him more than I ever did in the books (I found him kind of obnoxious in those).
- STILL no Dudley Demented explanation. I want to know what Dudley saw. Apparently Rowling said in an interview that he finally properly saw how Harry had been treated by the Dursleys, but he’d been seeing that for years so I don’t buy it.
- I wasn’t a massive fan of McGonagall; the actress was doing a poor impression of Maggie Smith. However, I loved it when she went into lioness mode and told everyone off.
- The audience loved it. We booed certain characters at the end and there were actual gasps when we discovered what had happened to a particular beloved character from the books.
I mean, in technical terms, this wasn’t the best West End show I’ve ever seen, or even the best play. (We Will Rock You was the best show, or maybe Rocky Horror when Richard O’Brien was in it, and The Woman in Black was the best play.) However, the mix of Harry Potter and theatre -two of my actual favourite things in the world – was like a dream come true. Cliched, I know, but it sums it up. I knew by the first interval that there would be a standing ovation at the end of Part 2. If Blood Brothers is the standing ovation musical, Cursed Child is going to be the standing ovation play.
I came out grinning my head off and couldn’t stop smiling for ages. GO AND SEE IT. Do not read the script first, or any spoilers, and ignore the naysayers. Go in completely blind and come out delighted.