I’m a huge Harry Potter fan. The two terrific full-length plays (one matinee and one evening performance, separated by about two hours) that comprise “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” are best enjoyed by devotees like me whose imagination has been captured by J.K. Rowling’s seven book saga about young Harry’s life at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. My heart was stirred by the coming-of-age tale of the orphaned boy who finds himself the leader on the side of goodness and light against the evil Lord Voldemort and the forces of dark magic. Although I read the novels, I also listened to Jim Dale’s liltingly perfect audio versions, which were their own distinctive pleasure. And, yes, I did see and appreciate the movies, although they lacked some of the charm and imagination of the novels.
In the epilogue of the final (and seemingly interminable) book in the series, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” 19 years have passed. With satisfying symmetry, that epilogue forms the introduction to “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.” In fact, much of the introductory dialogue of the first scene of the plays has been taken directly from the language in the epilogue of “Deathly Hallows.”
We watch a 37 year-old Harry (Jamie Parker), head of Magical Law Enforcement at the Ministry of Magic, now married to Ginny Weasley (Poppy Miller), at Platform Nine and Three Quarters at King’s Cross Station seeing his second son, Albus Severus (Sam Clemmett), off to Hogwarts for the first time. His friends, the now married couple, Hermione Granger (Noma Dumezweni) and Ron Weasley (Paul Thornley) are also there with their daughter Rose (Cherrelle Skeete).
The thrust of the two plays concerns Harry’s difficulties parenting his son Albus and Albus’s own coming-of-age. Most of us first learn about parenting from our own childhood and either emulate our parents, or swear that we will never treat our children the way we were treated. Despite the fact that Harry’s parents were killed by Lord Voldemort when Harry was a baby, Harry received a strong loving start in life and was fortunate to get emotional support from Professor Dumbledore and other teachers and friends at Hogwarts. Yet, Harry, lacking the day-to-day interchange of parent and child, never experienced growing up with his own father’s love, concern and worry, and is now himself an uncertain father.
Young Albus has his own problems living up to his celebrated father, the savior of the Wizarding World. Albus is chosen by the Sorting Hat to be a member of Slytherin house, rather than his father’s Gryffindor house. Albus finds himself isolated at Hogwarts and not particularly skilled at magic or sports. And who is Albus’s best and only friend? Scorpius Malfoy (Anthony Boyle), the son of Harry’s arch-enemy, Draco Malfoy (Alex Price).
Although I will abide by the “pledge” asked of theatre goers not to reveal the plot of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” the scripts of the plays are readily available and Wikipedia and other online sources can supply the plot details. Suffice it to say that the tale involves the escapades of Albus and Scorpius as they attempt to make their magical mark by righting wrongs of the past. The rule of unintended consequences runs amok and fabulous fantasy follows. I did, however, feel that some sequences grew a bit too complicated and convoluted for the uninitiated. Becoming familiar with the story lines and characters of the books will definitely enhance your enjoyment of the plays.
This father/son saga, with outstanding acting, especially by Anthony Boyle as Scorpius and Sam Clemmett as Albus, contains heart, humor, fabulous special effects and superb staging. I had feared that the staging might be too glitzy and Las Vegas-like in its excess. But instead, the stage palate was more black and white than Technicolor. Unlike the movies’ spoon-feeding, much was left to the imagination as befits sophisticated stage plays. Each play has two acts and one 20-minute intermission, making a total length of five hours and fifteen minutes. And I didn’t want it any of it to end. “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” was a totally exciting, exhilarating and ultimately gratifying experience that I won’t forget.
Emily S. Mendel
©Emily S. Mendel 2017 All Rights Reserved.