Tuesday, 15 May 2018

#KeepTheSecrets Approved Theatre Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Has there ever been a theatre production more committed to protecting its audiences from spoilers, and more to the point doing so successfully, than Harry Potter and the Cursed Child? It’s even made it part of its brand with the hashtag for the show being #KeepTheSecrets rather than anything to do with any other aspect of the show or its link with the marketing behemoth that is the boy wizard. You even get an email post-show with a video of a stern J K Rowling warning you against pointing spoilers. I love it.

However, it does make it kind of tricky to review. Especially for me. Like, I’ve met myself on a number of occasions and I know that I cannot be trusted with secrets about things I am enthusiastic about. So please find below a Hamilton style run down of a few thoughts and observations which are unambiguously spoiler free in bulletpoint form for your convenience.
  • This production is both figureatively and literally magical and tbh you just have to see it for yourself. In many ways I wish I had the self control to just stop writing there because that’s really all you need to know. But I don’t so on we go...
  • As an example of the craft of theatre-making it’s sublime. Some of the special effects and illusions, courtesy of Jamie Harrison, are, I have concluded, actual magic. There’s no other explanation for how they’re done. Others are the result of some of the best lighting design I have ever seen, from Neil Austin, and/or a combination of Steven Hoggett’s amazing movement (cape-ography is a thing and he is superb at it) and Katrina Lindsay’s beautiful costumes but are equally impressive. Visually, this play is just astonishing. 
  • Imogen Heap (I’d forgotten all about her, I loved her about ten years ago) has provided a modern, gorgeous score which - brace yourselves for a big statement - I loved every bit as much as John Williams’ classic work for the films. It’s absolutely nothing like them, and yet completely works. There’s some great choreography to go with the music too.
  • J K Rowling’s new story that the plays tells is, in relation to the rest of the HP canon, not the best. If it had been written as a book it would be my least favourite. But plays are meant to be seen and not read and, as a play, it’s perfect; so well constructed and constantly - massively - surprising. It’s no wonder they fear spoilers so much. 
  • The adaptation by Jack Thorne and John Tiffany (who also directs with utter classs) is exceptional. Together with JKR they’ve created something really special.
  • Here’s where things get tricky because I want to talk about the cast but can’t really for fear of spoilers. I’ve never seen a programme for a play that has a spoiler warning with its own cast list before but this one does and for very many good reasons! What I can say though is that the huge ensemble, many doubling or trebling up on major parts, is fantastic. I can safely say that new character Scorpius Malloy is my absolute favourite and that he is show stealingly well play by newcomer Samuel Blenkin.
  • The merch for this show is off the scale. The updating of some of the classic Potter imagery, for example the house crests, is a must own for fans. I’ll be wearing by new look Slytherin logo t shirt with pride this summer.
When this show was announced I was such a sceptic of it, despite being a huge Potter fan. It sounded to me like a cynical cashing in. Harry’s story is over, I thought, why does this show exist but to make money? I was 100% wrong, something I do not often willingly admit. This story, this play and this production is an utter joy from start to finish and a thing of genuine theatrical (and actual?) magic. See it - and see it from the most expensive seat you can afford. It’s worth it.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two are at the Palace Theatre for the foreseeable future. 

My seat for both parts - I did, and would recommend, the two show day - was F14 in the balcony. It cost £85 for both parts. When I go again, I’ll go for a more expensive seat because sightlines from the balcony aren’t as good as I would have liked. 

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