Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two
Princess Theatre, Melbourne
From February 23
It is not just excitement that it is in the air before the start of Part One of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”; the sounds of a passenger train station’s movement and announcements add atmosphere in accompaniment of staging that sees a cluster of suitcases lit by a large clock face. The story opens from here with the epilogue of the final in the series of fantasy novels written by British Author J. K. Rowling; couples Harry Potter (Gareth Reeves) and Ginny Weasley (Lucyh Goleby) and Ron Weasley (Gyton Grantley) and Hermione Granger (Paula Arundell) arrive at Kings Cross Platform 9¾ to farewell Albus Potter (Sean Rees-Wemyss), second son of Harry and Ginny, and Rose Granger-Weasley (Manali Datar) for their first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Instead of being a boy living in a cupboard under the stairs, the titular Harry is now a Ministry of Magic employee, struggling to connect with his son, and so the epic two-part play both continues and honours J.K. Rowling’s world, focusing on the next generation of promising wizards and witches, with visit by some iconic characters along the way (with noteworthy performances from Gillian Cosgriff and David Ross Paterson). The story moves quickly with Harry troubled by the darkness surrounding his son, but a request to #KeepTheSecrets, reiterated in signage, the distribution of post-show badges and even when purchasing a program that comes with its own spoiler warning (down to the character list) means that this is as far as plot explanation can go.
The surprises keep coming, not just in story but it’s execution. The show’s stagecraft is incredible, full of illusion and magic beyond just that of the expelliarmus sort. Movement is precise and stylised as scenes are flowed together within the choreography of swirling capes while props and people appear. A dense and detailed soundscape (Composer and Designer Imogne Heap) also helps with pacing and takes audiences to all sorts of locations. Neil Austin’s lighting design adds depth to the halls of Hogwarts and the Forbidden Forrest’s danger, and sound and lighting converge brilliantly in reverberated emphasis of story shifts. Katrina Lindsay’s layered costume design not only allows for choreographic facets and conveys much about character and of the story’s changing moods.
The cast is uniformly excellent. As the handsome Harry, Reeves is particularly memorable in the dramatic and powerful scenes where he is trying to connect with his son. Arundell makes for a feisty Hermione, even if her raging dialogue hurries on top of itself making it sometimes difficult to follow her words.
The sometimes insensitive and insecure Ron Weasley is well within Gyton Grantley’s range, providing the audience with lots of albeit predictable laughs. Madeleine Jones is a delight in new role of Delphi Diggory, however, it is William McKenna that is the clear standout as Scorpius Malfoy, Albus’ first-day friend, a physical role with significant dialogue given the frequency of his appearance across the two shows.
As a mere muggle without comprehensive knowledge of the Potterdom realm, I might not have got all the gags and shared in some of the shocked audience reactions, however, knowing something of who is who in terms of characters and relationships, meant that I could easily follow along and readily appreciate the show’s cleverness. This is such a perfect piece of theatre that it can be enjoyed in its own right, however, laughing, gasping, jumping, despairing and shuddering together as audience members certainly gives an added dimension to its experience.
Part One paces along, however, the show does drag a little in its final stages. Indeed, Acts Two and Three serve as highlights due to their reveals and seeing both shows consecutively in one day is definitely the recommendation given the incredible Part One ending with one hell of a cliff-hanger.
It seems that in the case of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”, the ravers really are right. It is a big show that will surely have a long run at Melbourne’s Princess Theatre (currently its only location apart from West End and Broadway); the show is certainly settled into the venue, which is detailed down to its HP monogrammed wallpaper and carpet design, in reflection of a production detailed down to every possibility, flawless in its production values and faultless in its execution.
‘It will change the way you think about theatre,’ I was told in advice to see the show, which is the perfect summary of its experience. “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” is a masterclass is modern theatre and one of the best things I’ve seen on stage, compelling in its creativity and with a real humanity to its storyline so all that really remains is recommendation to #doyourselfafavour.