Spending all day in an old atmospheric theatre was an adventure that I’d been excitedly anticipating since I heard Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was coming down under.
After seeing the long-awaited spectacle, I can confirm it met all expectations and exceeded some, too.
The production is one of the best I’ve seen – it’s clever and fast-changing, unlike so many stark set productions. There has been no expense spared in staging this production. The sets are as much a part of the action as the actors. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will certainly confirm Melbourne as the centre of Australian theatre. Even the queue to visit the gift shop snaked out the door, people looking at catalogues while lining up so they could make a speedy purchase.
Although I was aware it was a play, I was half expecting some musical numbers; instead, there are some cleverly choreographed moments which help progress the action and there is a good score – but it is certainly not a musical. The moving staircase and the full cast appearing as the sometime chorus give similar effects.
You don’t have to be a die-hard fan to enjoy Harry Potter and the Cursed Child but the more you know the more you gain from this production. For children, I recommend they know the books and if not the books, the films because it’s better to be familiar with the characters and previous plots and relationships. The Cursed Child picks up the the Harry Potter series 19 years after the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Written by Jack Thorne, based on a story by JK Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne expands on Rowling’s epilogue from the final novel in the series. In this short piece, we are reunited with the characters – who have children of their own that they are now farewelling from the renowned Platform 9¾ as they board the train to Hogwarts.
For me, it’s always lovely to revisit familiar characters, Ron in particular makes such a welcome return in this, as do Hermione, Harry and Ginny. Beyond that, I’m sworn to #KeepTheSecrets – and not wanting to spoil it for anyone, of course, I will oblige. On leaving the theatre, ushers hand out special pins that say #KeepTheSecrets – a tradition kept since the play opened in the West End London in 2016 and then in New York the following year. Audiences are asked not to spill secrets of the production that might spoil the enjoyment for future audiences.
I can tell you that Harry Potter is now a Ministry of Magic employee and is married to Ginny, with three children. Ron and Hermione are married with two. They are all still the best of friends. The action revolves around their offspring, Albus Severus Potter is about to start at Hogwarts, carrying with him the weight of being the child of the famous Harry Potter, Rose is the daughter of Ron and Hermione and is very much her mother’s daughter, and then there is the offspring of their Hogwarts nemesis, Draco Malfoy.
William McKenna as Scorpius Malfoy stands out despite it being his stage debut. He owns every scene in which he appears. Albus Potter (Sean Rees-Wemyss), son of Harry, is similar to the Harry character from the books and movies as more of the straight man to the action and other characters. Gyton Grantley as Ron is the comic relief and Paula Arundell as Hermione is an inspired choice and plays a mix of annoying, correct and proper.
Harry (Gareth Reeves), as an adult has lost much of his boyish charm and likeability – is that what happens to us all when we grow up and have children? It’s a clever story – with focus on both the child and adult audiences.
There are other familiar characters who make appearances – Dumbledore, Hagrid, The Sorting Hat and Professor McGonagall – and they have mostly taken on the voices from the films.
Producer Michael Cassell has really made the Princess Theatre Melbourne home to Harry Potter and The Cursed Child. The theatre has been fitted out with carpet bearing the ‘H’ insignia, there are stained glass windows and a fabulous set. This is why Melbourne will remain its only home in Australia. So, if you want to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and you’re not in Melbourne, you need to plan a visit.
Tickets are being sold until December 2019, the 1400+-seat theatre has been booked for three years and I think it is likely to go beyond that and overtake the record set by Phantom of the Opera (which ran nearly three years in the early 90s), also at the Princess.
It’s a two-parter performance which you can choose to see on a single day – matinee and evening – or on consecutive nights. I enjoyed the one-day sitting which made the day feel more like a special event where Harry remained the undivided focus. Did the play need to be two parts? Yes, I think it did. The story is big and there is so much Harry Potter that it can’t be condensed into just one show
The day I went there was a mix of ages in the audience from about 8 to 80.
The cast seems to be having fun as they settle into the long run that the play is set to enjoy. The Princess precinct will be Harry Potterfied – even the pubs are getting into the spirit with special drinks.
I thoroughly recommend the play to fans of Harry Potter – and for those not-yet-fans, I encourage you to watch the films or read the books so you too can enjoy this wonderful spectacle to the fullest.