HARRY POT­TER AND THE CURSED CHILD

Stage magic

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Reviews -

of­fi­cial open­ing 30 July Venue palace Theatre, lon­don

Di­rec­tor John Tif­fany Cast Jamie parker, paul Thorn­ley, noma Dumezweni, poppy Miller, alex price, an­thony Boyle

“The truth is a beau­ti­ful and ter­ri­ble thing, and should there­fore be treated with great cau­tion,” sighs Dum­ble­dore in The Philoso­pher’s Stone, and it’s a sen­ti­ment that The Cursed Child’s writ­ing team of JK Rowl­ing, Jack Thorne and John Tif­fany urge peo­ple to keep in mind. Ar­riv­ing with a hash­tag that casts Si­len­cio on spoil­ers (the au­di­ence are handed #keep­these­crets pin badges af­ter each show), The Cursed Child is an au­da­cious play that will have stunned fans scrolling through Pot­terPe­dia, fact-check­ing ev­ery twist and turn of the plot.

En­joy­ment of the play doesn’t de­pend on au­di­ences hav­ing a com­pre­hen­sive un­der­stand­ing of the wiz­ard­ing world, though. Set 19 years af­ter the events of The Deathly Hal­lows, The Cursed Child ex­plores the strug­gle of a grown-up Harry Pot­ter try­ing to un­der­stand his youngest son, Al­bus Severus, who’s buck­ling un­der the weight of the fam­ily legacy. By spread­ing the story across gen­er­a­tions of Potters, the play skil­fully bal­ances the high ex­pec­ta­tions of fans as well as giv­ing new­com­ers a re­lat­able en­try point.

There are heaps of heart­felt mo­ments, and not all of them rely on dan­ger. Cute in­ter­ac­tions and lines draw cher­ished char­ac­ters out of the books, mak­ing it feel like the au­di­ence is re­ally watch­ing fic­tional icons take to the stage. For the most part, new char­ac­ters are por­trayed with a sim­i­lar depth and nu­ance, their per­son­al­i­ties more than strong enough to lay the foun­da­tion for fur­ther ad­ven­tures and fan­fic. Scor­pius Mal­foy in par­tic­u­lar is sure to be­come the poster boy for, well, the sort of per­son Scor­pius Mal­foy is.

Speak­ing of fan­fic, The Cursed Child toys with the Harry Pot­ter world so much that it starts to veer in that di­rec­tion. The type of story be­ing told is one that JK Rowl­ing briefly ex­plored in Azk­a­ban, but here it’s mined for all it’s worth. This re­sults in an oc­ca­sion­ally knotty plot which de­mands that the­atre­go­ers pay ex­tremely close at­ten­tion. It’s also the sort of story that might not ap­pear char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally Harry Pot­ter at first. How­ever, this sprawl­ing, wild and dark tale is a wor­thy en­try that lives up to the chal­lenge of re­turn­ing au­di­ences to Rowl­ing’s uni­verse.

The mag­i­cal world it­self is brought to life with in­ven­tive set de­signs, in­ge­nious il­lu­sions and stun­ning spe­cial ef­fects, all of which have been crafted with the same care as the work of the ac­tors and writ­ers. The re­sult is a the­atri­cal block­buster that will leave Pot­ter devotees des­per­ate to watch it again, pore over ev­ery line, and ap­pre­ci­ate ev­ery ref­er­ence un­til it be­comes as fa­mil­iar as the orig­i­nal seven-part se­ries. Dom Carter

Early pre­views used real barn owls to de­liver a let­ter. The idea was scrapped af­ter one flew off into the au­di­to­rium.

Will leave devotees des­per­ate to watch it again

Chil­dren: here’s one they made ear­lier.

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