Harry Potter and the Cursed Child @ the Palace Theatre - Review

July 26, 2016

The eighth story in the Harry Potter universe arrives in the form of a play on the London stage. Set just as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows ends, what could possibly be in store? Enjoy our spoiler-free review!

When it comes to a Harry Potter and the Cursed Child theatre review, there's probably a few things you're going to want to know in advance. Since we’re an events blog, we’ll primarily focus on some on more of the stage craft elements, though will also obviously state whether or not we enjoyed the show. Nobody wants to have the story ruined for them, especially as most people won’t be able to get to the play until who knows how far into the future (and even then, you have to come to London to see it) and the playtext isn’t released until later in the week. Okay then, let’s begin…

The first thing we should state is that we loved the sheer spectacle of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Split over two parts, you really feel like you’re all part of a family in the auditorium by the time part one ends and part two starts. You may not know the people sitting both ahead and behind, but you’ll recognise their faces and it’s fair to say the excitement is palpable between the two parts, not least because this is very much a Harry Potter adventure brought to life before your very eyes.

The Harry Potter films dominated cinemas for over a decade and although it was awesome to see the books visually rather than in our imagination, there was always that nagging feeling that you weren’t quite experiencing the world in all its glory. The idea that you were only observing from a distance and not fully immersed in Hogwarts all but disappears when the characters come to life on the West End stage. There is no glass here, no window we’re looking through… Everything is happening right in front of you and yes, there’s magic to be seen.

A play is very different from a film or book in that there have to be certain transitions from one scene to the next. Both parts of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child begin with extraordinarily choreographed dance sequences, though to call them that seems to be a tad questionable as they are more appropriately described as ‘the creative movement of props’ – suitcases et al – that serve to create a sense of atmosphere and create all of what you are to observe.

The magic of theatre is such that these props can be altered and transformed to be whatever is required – a whole host of Hogwarts’ students arrive with their baggage which is incredibly turned into the Hogwarts Express, whilst what can only be described as genuine magic occurs before your very eyes. A hat hovers in the air, people disappear as they apparate and characters simply appear in a previously empty bed. How is all this achieved? Well who knows, but it’s fair to say that this simple use of magic makes for a truly enthralling and captivating experience.

Music from Imogen Heap serves to underscore the various motifs of the play – a sense of loss, a sense of discovering who you should be or how to feel comfortable within your own skin. It’s a gorgeous and simple soundtrack that calls to mind similar tunes from both Imogen Heap’s back catalogue and also Glen Kean’s work. One particular ‘dance of staircases’ (it’s hard to know what else to call it) is beautiful as characters silently pass each other on the moving stairs.

The production of the show is naturally exemplary with various lighting effects to amplify the illusions and frankly, phenomenal set design. A huge prop emerges from the ceiling towards the end of the first part that is breathtaking in its scope, whilst in the second part, be sure to admire the way that the theatre itself is decorated. The puppetry too, is spellbinding.

But enough of all that! We said we wouldn’t talk too much on the story but we must say that we were entertained. There are a number of grumblings that can be found in small corners of the Internet that combine about some parts of the story or even large parts and although we understand some of these qualms and question others, it’s plainly obvious that Jack Thorne, John Tiffany and of course, JK Rowling, would never be able to please everybody. For what it’s worth, we preferred Part I and found the final moments to be astonishing, but there are just as many people out there who would say they preferred Part II.

In terms of the cast, Anthony Boyle as Scorpius Malfoy is undoubtedly the standout, playing a character which successfully builds on the trio from the original trilogy. You’ll be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t love Scorpius and although the writing helps, it is Boyle’s performance that captures the magic. We also particularly enjoyed Jamie Parker as Harry Potter; there can be no harder role to step into than the most famous fictional character of the past two decades but Parker manages it brilliantly. In truth, the cast all do a fab job, but those two stood out the most on the night’s we enjoyed the play.

Will you get as much enjoyment out of reading the playtext as you would seeing the play? Of course not. Indeed, some of the play’s shortcomings will seem even more obvious when not seen in the context of a night out in London’s West End. Even so, we’d say this is a tremendously enjoyable Potter tale as long as your expectations aren’t sky high. Rowling does give in to some fan suggestions that have been made over the years, but for us this wasn’t a problem. For the larger Potter fans amongst you, it may provide strong disapproval.

All in all, we think this is a spectacular night of theatre and it seems certain that this will be nominated for a whole host of Olivier and WhatsOnStage awards next year. The production is a technical marvel and all involved – from the cast to the crew and even those managing front of house – help to keep the exciting nature of the event feeling special. We loved it but we are mindful in giving it a rave review as there are slight problems with the story (or there were when we saw a preview at the end of June) and Potter mad fans will certainly be frustrated with some details. That being said, for the price you pay, you do get an awful lot for your money and the overarching accomplishment that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child manages to provide is something that is deserving of high praise.

For more information and to book, please visit the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child website here.

Photo by Manuel Harlan.


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By Henry Fosdike