Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
The Eighth Story, Nineteen Years Later
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Since its preview on the 7th June, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has been nominated for eleven awards, and already has plans in motion to head for Broadway in 2018. But it is not just Americans (and those outside the U.K.) who have been waiting eagerly for a chance see the eighth story in J.K Rowling's saga about 'The Boy Who Lived'. The show was a sellout from the moment of release, leaving many fans empty handed. I know only too well about the struggle to get tickets.
On the day of release, I got up early and went onto the official booking website half an hour before sales opened. I expected to be one of the first in line, but when the time came, to my dismay, I discovered that customers were not seen to on a first come first serve basis, but completely randomised. I ended up being over twenty thousand and something in the virtual queue. After two hours of waiting, my turn finally came; I found the date, time, and seats that I wanted, went to pay...and the site crashed due to heavy traffic. The page refreshed and I was sent to the back of the queue once more. Even further back than before. After another three-hour wait, my turn finally arrived again, but by this time, all the early dates were gone, as were all the mid-range tickets. I had a choice from the very expensive seats or the seats with an obscured view. I went for the latter.
Tickets still sell like hot cakes, but queues should no longer be as long as they were on first release. There have also been no more reports of the site crashing, so prospect purchasers should not need to worry about facing the problems I did.
All the main bookings are currently full up to December 2017, but there is a unique opportunity to see the film earlier with the special Friday Forty. Every Friday, forty tickets are released for a performance the following week. These include some of the best seats in the house at only £20 per part.
If you are not lucky enough to get one of these tickets, more tickets for 2018 will be released in due course. The play is divided into two parts and there are three ways in which to see them. The first option is to see both parts on the same day with a matinee and evening performance. The second choice is to watch the parts on consecutive days, and the third option is to buy tickets to each part separately and choose individual dates that are more spaced apart. Of course you do not have to buy tickets to both parts, but it does seem rather pointless only going to see half the play. Tickets range from £15 to £99.50 per part, depending on which booking agent you use.
I was now not going to see the play until six months after the premiere, which meant either being exposed to spoilers or missing out on all the fan discussions. Fortunately, to my relief, it was later announced that the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child rehearsal script would become available, meaning I could read the play beforehand and share in everyone else's excitement.
After my initial giddiness of new Harry Potter content, I became deflated. I found the script disappointing, not only because of an outlandish plot, but also because the characters I loved so much did not ring true to self; they did not behave in keeping with what we know about them, and there was a major character revelation that felt completely false.
Despite this, I still felt excited to see the play, because seeing something live on stage is very different to reading a script. I knew the plot was not going to be to my taste, but if I could put that aside and appreciate the magic of a life performance, it could still be very enjoyable.
On the day
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is being performed at Palace Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue. Although the first part of our show did not start till one o'clock, my dad and I had early because you are asked to arrive an hour before the starting time. Before entering the building, all bags go through security checks outside, and tickets are checked at the door. They made this rather fun because there were four doors with ticket inspectors, and each inspector represented one of the Hogwarts houses. For part one I went through Gryffindor's door and for part two, Slytherin's.
In the foyer, you can buy a programme for £5. The programme is particularly useful for anyone who has never read one of the Harry Potter books or watched the film, as it provides a summary of everything that has happened up to this point. There is also a glossary, explaining a few terms and key characters important to the story. I also liked the article exploring the psychology behind Harry's and Voldemort's different personalities.
Aside from the programme, there is lots of merchandise to buy. These include things such as tee-shirts, a notebook, key rings, lanyards, and house related items such as necklaces, pens, quills, etc. The booklet also featured two plush snowy owls, but for some reason they were not available and the staff did not even seem to know about them.
There is a bar located on every level, but if you prefer to eat out, many restaurants are closely situated to the theatre. I opted for a Blanchette, a French restaurant about ten minutes away. Although ten minutes does not sound a lot, there is only a short time to eat before having to arrive back the theatre, so when twenty minutes is lost just getting there and back, it might actually be a better idea to pick somewhere right on the doorstep.
Just as the performance was about to start, a voice came out of the speakers giving the usual information about no photography, turning phones off, not eating noisy food, etc. But it was done in such a way as to make it very entertaining. A different voice or character from the play was used after each interval to keep things interesting.
Set nineteen years after the defeat of Voldermort, Jack Thorne's original play, sees a new generation of witches and wizards attending Hogwarts. Among them is Albus Severus Potter, youngest son of the famous Harry Potter. But it is not easy being the son of a legend. How is he meant to live up to the expectations of his family and the rest of the world when there is a dark cloud following him everywhere?
As J.K. Rowling has asked everyone who has seen the play to #KeepTheSecrets, I won't go into too much detail, but at its heart, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a story of parent relationships, friendships, and finding ones own identity. Unfortunately this is intertwined with an obscure plot that stretches suspension of belief to its limit. The main issue is with the characters, who do not always act in a way that fits with what we know of them from the books. While Harry's attitude toward his son seems completely uncharacteristic, he, Hermione's, and Ginny's career paths take a u-turn. Ron, meanwhile, provides a lot of laughs, but at the same time is a caricature of himself. That being said, I thought Noma Dumezweni and Paul Thornley gave outstanding performances as Hermione and Ron respectively. Both their mannerisms and dialogue were perfectly timed, and I truly felt they were the characters. Anthony Boyle Took on the role of Draco Malfoy's son, Scorpius. He made the character his own with a distinctive voice and quirky idiosyncrasies that made him outshine everyone else. On the other hand, Jamie Parker did not feel like Harry, nor did Ginny's fiery personality get fully represented by Poppy Miller, who felt flat and generic. This is partly due to the lack of development Ginny's character received in the script, which is the case with several other characters as well.
Overall I thought the play rushed, particularly in the first half, in which we get fast tracked to Albus's fourth year. The dialogue felt rushed in parts and had I not read the script beforehand, I would have had trouble keeping up at times. Part two of the play had a better pace and gasp-worthy discoveries, but was over-filled with laugh lines.
While the storyline might prove a disappointing betrayal to Harry Potter fans, the staging of The Cursed Child can not be faulted; it was one of the most magical things I have ever seen. Witness Albus instantly change from casual clothes to his school uniform in a blink of an eye, see him transform into another person as if it were really happening, and see four people get sucked through a tiny gap in a phone booth. How is any of this possible? It's magic.
The props, makeup, costumes, animatronics, lighting, music, and special effects were all mind blowing, and will leave you scratching your head asking how it was done for weeks. There is no denying that as a play it was spectacular. As a Harry Potter play? Not so much.