DO NOT READ THIS BLOG ENTRY IF YOU WANT TO AVOID SPOILERS FOR THE HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD PLAY, BOTH THE SCRIPT AND STAGE PRODUCTION. I fully respect the #KeepTheSecrets movement and that is why I am attempting to hide my thoughts under a bunch of disclaimer-type layers. The reason I am even putting my thoughts on the internet is because a lot of people back in Australia have asked for specific spoiler-y feedback, and obviously they won’t be seeing the show anytime soon, so this is my attempt to provide that. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED. DON’T READ ON IF YOU WANT SECRETS KEPT.
Okay, so. When I walked out of the theatre right after Part Two on Wednesday night, I was running on crazy adrenaline. All I could think was ‘I want to go straight back in and watch it all over again’. Honestly, at that point, I could not think of one single thing that wasn’t 110% amazing. Now, several days later, I’ve had time to think and process and reflect and delight in my memories of it, and can now present a more balanced reaction. I’ve attempted to organise my thoughts below. Hope you enjoy it! Also, please feel free to discuss/argue with me. I could talk about this play until I die.
I’m not going to comment negatively on anyone’s acting. The reason for this is that, firstly, I like being nice, but secondly, I think taking on a character that is beloved the world over is no mean feat. Everyone coming to see the play has a strong idea in their head of how they perceive every character and so the actors are competing with much higher expectations than they normally would with most other productions. Additionally, the film cast is far and away the most famous depiction of the characters in this play. It’s not like seeing Les Miserables where you might have seen ten different Valjean’s to compare them, or three different Fantine’s. There is really only the film cast and people’s imaginations to reference, and so I think all the actors had a really hard job ahead of them from the start. That being said, there were some amazing standouts. The big one for me was Harry. Jamie Parker looks the part, yes, but I found him really compelling to watch as a somewhat difficult version of Harry (that is, Harry Potter-is-a-bit-crap-at-parenting-version). I could feel the effort that went into keeping his temper as though it was radiating off him, and when he lost his temper, as he did with Ginny, Albus, Draco, Dumbledore, and others, it was watching someone struggling with a really awful impulse. It was utterly realistic and heartbreaking. Noma Dumezweni strode about the stage like she was Hermione reincarnated. She was strong, capable, and no-nonsense when she needed to be, but charmingly softer with the people she loved. Her face when the reality of Rose not having existed finally sunk in was exquisite. Her chemistry with Paul Thornley as Ron was palpable and excited my little fangirl heart like nothing else. When they’re about to be defeated by Dementors, their kiss was heart melting (that’s the Ron/Hermione kiss, not the Dementor’s Kiss…) and when they were interacting in their normal husband/wife/married for two decades way, it was natural and familiar and lovely. Also, rebel!Hermione is magnificent, and Minister for Magic!Hermione is the stuff of dreams. Paul Thornley was a brilliant Ron – his comic timing was flawless and his interaction with everyone else onstage was so Ron-like – grounded and funny and loving. He definitely was an audience favourite. Alex Price as Draco Malfoy was still a ball of crackling resentment at the beginning of the play, and watching him mellow as a father and in his relationship with Scorpius and in his former animosity with Harry was a pleasure. When Draco stood with Harry and the others at the end to watch Harry’s parents die, I actually cried (though that was also to do with the amazingness of everyone in that scene, especially Jamie Parker). Poppy Miller was a gentle Ginny, but her moment of greatness came when roaring at Draco Malfoy ‘My son is missing!’ ‘SO IS MINE!’. Totes fierce. Special mention for other ‘familiar’ characters that were acted particularly superbly goes to Helena Lymbery who was truly disgusting as Professor Umbridge, and brilliant as Petunia Dursley. Her shock when seeing the flowers on Lily’s grave, and trying not to go to pieces in front of young Harry was wonderful. Also, Tom Milligan was a hilarious James Potter Jr and a touchingly heroic Cedric Diggory – very poignant to watch when we know he is going to his death.
Okay, so NEW characters. Sam Clemmett as Albus Potter is probably the luckiest young actor in the world. This show will make him a star, and it is a star-making turn that he delivers. Albus Potter is infuriatingly like his father at that shitty-adolescent stage – convinced he knows better, unwilling to appreciate olive branches when they’re offered, and unable to let go of the anger he feels when he is not understood. Watching him reconcile with Scorpius and, later, his parents was beautiful, as well as his moments of pure sorrow – sending Cedric to his death, and comforting his dad while they watched Lily and James die. I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about Anthony Boyle who plays Scorpius Malfoy, but we saw his understudy, James Le Lacheur, and Scorpius was still my favourite character, so that tells us a lot about the ability of this cast. James Le Lacheur’s Scorpius was such a gorgeous little dork. Fiercely loyal to Albus and to his dad, but reluctant to show too much affection to his father lest he be rebuffed. His quiet bravery when missing his mother and when standing up to Snape, forcing him to believe his story, was inspiring, and he managed all this while skilfully delivering the comedy in Scorpius’s characterisation as well. His crush on Rose Granger-Weasley was so cute, and an excellent contradiction to Cherrelle Skeete’s feisty, confident Rose, whose absence was made all the more striking by her vibrancy on stage. Esther Smith was Delphi, the new antagonist. In what I think was a somewhat problematic character (see below), she committed 1000% to the part and lifted it to a level that a less capable actress would probably not have managed. She was completely disarming before the reveal of her true intentions – charming and funny and lighthearted. The contrast between that part of her character and the evil part of her character worked really well. The other mention I have to make was Chris Jarman, as Hagrid and the Sorting Hat. He was as loveable a Hagrid as Robbie Coltrane (there were moments were the diction slipped, but I think that might have been his massive hairy beard costume) and was an amazing presence on stage as the Sorting Hat and just a general setter of the mood. When he walked across the stage and stood in the falling snow as the set transformed into Godric’s Hollow, I had chills running all over me. A really strong presence.
As I had avoided the script and any sort of commentary or opinion on the play, I had absolutely no idea what to expect plot-wise. All I knew was that the Golden Trio were adults and their children featured in the play. As the play started and the first act introduced the Diggory plot and the Time Turner, I could not work out remotely where it was headed and if I wasn’t so enraptured with the show, it might have bothered me. As it was, I was just enjoying myself too much to worry about murky plot details. In hindsight, using the Time Turner to explore different realities of the wizarding universe was a fantastic idea, and my only qualm was that Delphi felt a bit shoe-horned into the story. I understand why they had to do it – they needed a completely new character with no associations to any previous ‘good’ characters in order to make her evil. Otherwise, as an audience of readers and fans, it would have been too risky to play with the destinies of pre-existing ‘good’ characters. If Delphi had turned out to be anyone but the child of evil characters, it would have retrospectively affected our reading of the earlier books. They couldn’t bring Voldemort back, so they brought basically the next most dangerous thing – his vengeful child. I did like the subplot of the questioning of Scorpius’s parentage, as well as the layers that created in the story of Draco and Astoria. I feel like Delphi’s dialogue danced dangerously close to cliché after her true motivations were revealed, BUT as Scorpius was realising the truth, noticing the tattoo etc. it was suitably chilling. And as I said above, Esther Smith’s delivery made up for what I think was somewhat shaky dialogue at times.
The only two pre-existing characters that I had any issue with was Ginny and Ron. While brilliantly funny, I would have liked to see Ron given more to do apart from comic relief (he did have things other than comic relief to do, but not as much as Harry or Hermione). And Ginny, bless her, was not as fierce as Ginny in the book. Basically the two characters emulated movie-Ron and movie-Ginny more than book-Ron and book-Ginny.
Harry and Albus’s character arcs were pretty much perfect. I’ve already mentioned how impressive the actors were, but it was the fact that the conflict between them was so recognisable that made it so poignant. Of course Harry would be a less-than-stellar parent at times – look at his own childhood. And of course Albus is going to have a chip on his shoulder – the lone Slytherin in a family of popular, heroic Gryffindors can’t be much fun. I understood completely Albus’s motivations in going back in time to save Cedric – he couldn’t see beyond his own fixation on fatherly love, and his perceptions on what is ‘fair’ and ‘right’. Learning to accept tragedy, both as an adult and an adolescent, were powerful lessons for both Albus and Harry, and the scene where Draco, Scorpius, Harry, Ginny, Albus, Ron and Hermione were standing in solidarity watching Voldemort murder Lily and James was breathtaking (literally breathtaking, there was a lot of crying in the audience).
I thought starting with the ‘Nineteen Years Later’ epilogue set the plot up beautifully, and finishing with the tender, tentative promise of reconciliation was exactly the understated ending it needed. In the meantime, the crazy plot of time-travel and Delphi’s efforts to save Voldemort were gripping and twisty and surprising and shocking – all the things I loved about the book series. And seeing Snape again! Amazing! Especially when he basically agreed to die in order to set the world right again. Dammit Snape. Always the quiet hero. (And I loved Ginny’s line about ‘quiet heroism’ to Harry.)
Oh, and Moaning Myrtle as a flirty minx was hilarious.
Firstly, having Imogen Heap as composer was a stroke of genius. Her music was otherworldly and incredibly mood-setting. The set was incredibly versatile, representing all sorts of locations with minimal but effective dressing. And the staircases!! So cool!! I think my favourite set piece was Hermione’s weaponised library. And every time they used the Time Turner, the lighting did this amazing rippling thing like they were suddenly underwater.
The costumes were suitably ‘wizardy’ and I loved the various stylised uses of stagecraft to represent magic – such as having the Sorting Hat represented as a suave, suited man with a bowler hat, and having Draco and Harry’s duel carried out by actors in black lifting the two characters rather than wires. The wirework that was used in other scenes worked well, especially Delphi’s flying and the scenes in the lake. I loved the use of the Kings Cross location and some clever choreography to depict the rapid passing of time, bringing the audience through the first three years of Albus’s Hogwarts experience in a seamless, smooth period of a few minutes.
Even though a lot of the magic was stylised, there were some amazing pyrotechnics at work as well, and some tricks – well, I still have no idea how they were carried out. I was sitting five rows from the front, in the stalls. I had an excellent view and was looking very hard, yet I am completely in the dark to work out how they did the Polyjuice Potion transformations. The audience applauded spontaneously when they happened because they were so ridiculously flawless. There were also some tricks that were just really cool illusions – I loved the Disarming Charms! Also, the scene on top of the Hogwarts Express with the Trolley Witch transforming into a clawed monster was great (and amazing badass Trolley Witch monster, who knew?)
Overall (I have rambled a lot, I know, and I can guarantee you that I will post this and then think of a million things I should have mentioned and didn’t), this play is one of the best pieces of theatre I have ever seen. It had to be good – it’s too big a risk to produce something less-than-amazing when the subject matter is so famous – but I know some people will be disappointed in various ways. For myself though, I just feel so, so lucky that I got to see it, and even luckier that I found it so satisfying and exhilarating. I would see it again in a heartbeat. There was so much going on at once, and so many brilliant visual and emotional jewels that passed so quickly, that I feel like I could see it a hundred times and get something new from it again and again.
Until the next time though, what are everyone else’s thoughts?