Harry Potter and the Cursed Child … accio tickets

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS. IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD AND DON’T WANT TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS IN ADVANCE, PLEASE DON’T SCROLL DOWN BELOW THE NEXT PICTURE. #KEEPTHESECRETS

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MUSIC OWL AWARDS2nd – book or play; 1st – staging

When I went: 27 October 2016 (Part One), 28 October 2016 (Part Two); 16 April 2017 (Parts One and Two)

Music Owl Hoot rating: 5/5

Location: Palace Theatre, London

Performers: Jamie Parker (Harry Potter), Noma Dumezweni (Hermione Granger), Alex Price (Draco Malfoy), Paul Thornley (Ron Weasley), Poppy Miller (Ginny Potter), Sam Clemmett (Albus Potter), Anthony Boyle (Scorpius Malfoy), Esther Smith (Delphi Diggory), Cherrelle Skeete (Rose Granger-Weasley, Young Hermione), Tom Milligan (Cedric Diggory, James Potter Sr, James Potter Jr), Jack North (Dudley Dursley, Karl Jenkins, Viktor Krum), Jeremy Ang Jones (Craig Bowker Jr), Annabel Baldwin (Moaning Myrtle, Lilly Potter Sr), Nuno Silva (Bane), Paul Bentall (Uncle Vernon, Severus Snape, Lord Voldemort), Claudia Grant (Polly Chapman), Chris Jarman (Hagrid, Sorting Hat), James Le Lacheur (Yann Fredericks), Helena Lymbery (Aunt Petunia, Madam Hooch, Dolores Umbridge), Barry McCarthy (Amos Diggory, Albus Dumbledore), Sandy McDade (Trolley Witch, Professor McGonagall), Adam McNamara (Station Master), Dylan Standen (Young Harry Potter),  Christiana Hutchings (Lilly Potter Jr)

Creative team: J K Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany (story), Jack Thorne (playwright), John Tiffany (director), Steven Hoggett (movement director), Christine Jones (set designer), Katrina Lindsay (costume designer), Imogen Heap (composer and arranger), Neil Austin (lighting designer), Gareth Fry (sound designer), Jamie Harrison (illusions and magic), Martin Lowe (music supervisor and arranger), Julia Horan CDG (casting director)

Approximate price: £95 (per person per Part) if in the stalls; £65 (per person per Part) if in the dress circle

Special points: Staging and special effects

Best bit: Special effects and acting

If I could change one thing: Better-written Ron

Review:

Background to the play

The Harry Potter books and films are so famous that it is quite rare to come across someone who hasn’t engaged with them. Am I a Harry Potter fan? Let’s see … I grew up with the books, I’ve read them LOTS of times (usually for the first time on the day of release), I was an extra in one of the films, I’ve visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando AND California, I’ve got a wand, I’ve got a Hedwig toy and magnet, I’ve got tons of Ravenclaw merchandise and I’ve been on the Warner Bros Studio Tour. To be honest, if I appeared on Mastermind, my specialist subject would probably be Harry Potter.

As you can probably tell, I have felt a strong and personal connection to the Harry Potter ‘world’ for a really, really long time. The flipside of loving the HP-verse so much is that I’m the kind of person who will pick apart parts of the films that deviate from the books and will always have strong feelings about the development of other stories in this verse, rather than just being able to enjoy them without any background.

So when I heard there was going to be a play of the ‘eighth’ story, starting at the time of the epilogue from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I was excited but also a bit cautious: what if it erased some of the magic of the books? J K Rowling is such a good planner and wrapped up the books’ threads so neatly; I almost didn’t want the story to be ‘disturbed’. However, I’ve read her other (non-HP) books and trust her so much as a writer that I knew the play would be worth seeing, and I noted the almost universal 5-star reviews (without going into them too deeply for fear of seeing spoilers). If nothing else, I knew that the play would be a huge theatrical event with amazing effects.

The play

  • Effects

As a general point, the magical effects were incredible. I’ve been to the theatre a lot (as you can tell from the number of other reviews on this website!) and have never seen anything like this; the transformations and spells and wand effects were every bit as convincing as in the films.

Part One

  • Story

The story begins in the Epilogue of Deathly Hallows, with Harry and Ginny seeing their sons James and the unfortunately-named Albus off on the Hogwarts Express, along with Ron, Hermione and their daughter Rose. (Ron and Hermione also have a son called Hugo in the Epilogue who is the same age as Lily Potter, but he is not in the play at all, only barely mentioned by a couple of the characters – I think some people have run with #Justice4Hugo on social media.)

The focus then roughly splits between Albus, Rose and Draco Malfoy’s son Scorpius on the one hand, and Harry (Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement), Ron, Hermione (who is now Minister for Magic!) and Ginny on the other. The key thread of the first half is the difficult relationship between Harry and his middle child Albus, who is shocked and dismayed to be put in Slytherin rather than Gryffindor but determined to maintain his friendship with Scorpius, an unpopular child often labelled as “Voldemort’s son” (as Draco and his wife Astoria were rumoured to be unable to have their own children and therefore (?) accused of using a Time-Turner to conceive a son between Astoria and Voldemort). Albus seems to have none of Harry’s selflessness or Quidditch abilities, and is not popular with most of the other students. The two of them link up with Delphini (or Delphi) Diggory, a young woman keen to look after her uncle, Amos Diggory, and achieve his wish of bringing back Cedric, who died in Goblet of Fire.

After the interval, Albus and Scorpius’ desire to rescue Cedric from death via the Time-Turner hidden in Hermione’s office bookcase predictably has dangerous consequences for the wizarding and Muggle worlds, reaching its peak at the end of Part One with a lone Scorpius being transplanted into a world where Albus never existed, Umbridge is Headmistress, and Hogwarts is celebrating ‘Voldemort Day’.

I was a little worried when I realised the plot would be based around time-turning / rewriting history. This is a trope that has been used in works from Doctor Who to Star Trek to X-Men to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with varying degrees of success, and I worried that surely any permanent re-writing of the timelines as we know them would undermine all the narrative force of the original books. In addition, Prisoner of Azkaban effectively illustrated how dangerous time-turning for even a few hours can be, and J K Rowling took pains in Half-Blood Prince to close any possible time-turning loopholes by letting us know that the young heroes had smashed the Ministry’s entire stock of Time-Turners at the end of Order of Phoenix. It turns out that now, there is at least one other Time-Turner in existence, and it is more powerful than the ‘hour-turners’ previously used by Hermione and Harry.

  • Scorpius, Albus, Rose and Delphi

Scorpius is definitively not a young version of Draco and does not resemble what we have come to expect of a ‘typical’ Slytherin in personality – he is hapless, sweet, awkward and loyal to Albus, more like you would expect a Hufflepuff to be. The friendship between Scorpius and Albus is genuinely moving, especially in the context of Rose’s abandonment of her cousin Albus, done seemingly in search of popularity. (We see very little of Harry and Ginny’s other children, James and Lily, other than the confirmations that they were sorted into Gryffindor and are therefore fundamentally different from Albus.) Albus and Scorpius form an awkward threesome with Delphi, who joins them in their endeavour to steal the Ministry’s Time-Turner from Hermione, turn back time and save Cedric Diggory, who was killed as a “spare” on Voldemort’s orders after the third task of the Triwizard Tournament.

The motivation and the means of trying to bring back Cedric are slightly unclear – if they wanted to save someone, why would Albus and Scorpius not try to save Scorpius’ mother Astoria, who had died shortly beforehand? Albus says “I know what it is to be the spare”, a reference to his argument with Harry where Harry unadvisedly revealed that sometimes he wishes Albus was not his son, and to Harry’s conversations with Ginny where he says he wishes Albus was more like his children James and Lily, whom he can more easily understand. However, it still seems like a stretch for Albus to try to do something so reckless to bring back someone he had never met, even if he does fancy Delphi and wants to please her and annoy his father at the same time.

In addition, why would the young trio bother going back to the first and second tasks rather than just stopping Cedric from grabbing the Cup at the end of the third? Maybe Albus wants to “right Harry’s mistakes” (and perhaps also teach him a lesson or get back of him), but would neither Albus and Scorpius have the small amount of common sense that tells them that doing this at all, let alone from a point quite a few months back from the event, would obviously go horribly wrong? In any case, their lopsided threesome (with Albus taking a shine to Delphi and Scorpius slightly playing the gooseberry) has echoes of Harry, Ron and Hermione’s closeness throughout their school years.

  • Sorting Hat, Dumbledore, Moaning Myrtle, Trolley Witch

The Sorting Hat is portrayed through a slightly sinister man dangling the hat on the children’s heads and observing them throughout. For whatever reason, although he accepted Harry’s pleas to not be in Slytherin, he ignores Albus’. It is possible that this is shown to be the right decision throughout the rest of the play, as Albus displays more self-interest than Harry ever did. Dumbledore’s portrait also makes an appearance, more in the vein of the bumbling Richard Harris interpretation than the more acerbic Michael Gambon portrayal.

Other highlights recalling the old Harry Potter stories include the use of the events from the Triwizard Tournament and the character of Moaning Myrtle, beautifully rendered in a ghostlike dress and gloriously naughty; her lightness and adult jokes are welcome in an increasingly dark story. The Trolley Witch (famous for her cries of “Anything from the trolley, dears?”) is bizarrely revealed to be an ancient, nameless employee of the founder of the Hogwarts Express hell-bent on stopping students getting off the train (although she fails and Albus and Scorpius evade her with relative ease).

  • Ages of characters

I did have a slight problem with the apparent ages of some of the characters – why is Professor McGonagall still teaching over 20 years after the events of Deathly Hallows? In the last version of reality that we get before the end of Part One, why is Umbridge still Headmistress? Do all witches and wizards live longer than Muggles? We do see the old wizards’ home housing Amos Diggory but nobody seems obviously older than in a normal old people’s home, although they were definitely funnier.

  • Amos Diggory

I found it difficult to buy that Amos Diggory would remain so bitter towards Harry and would literally risk everyone in the world’s lives to bring back Cedric. Yes, he would always miss his son, but would he be so unbothered about everyone else? However, as described below, this issue was resolved in Part Two.

  • Ron and Ginny

My biggest issue was with the writing of the character of Ron. I know that in the films, and to some extent in the book, a lot of his lines are played for comic effect and he is portrayed as the least clever of the core three characters, but there is a lot more to him than that – for instance, his loyalty, his bravery and his affection for Hermione and Harry. In this play, he never really went beyond being a sidekick comedy character who was obsessed with jokes and in love with Hermione in a puppy-dog sort of way. I know that some comic relief is often needed in dark stories but I still think he could have been given more depth.

In addition, Ginny, as in the books and especially in the films, is not given enough character of her own to convincingly connect her to Harry. She is pretty passive when it comes to the problems between Harry and Albus, and does not seem to intervene to reassure Albus, or engage with her other children much at all. There are so many characters in this play that perhaps there simply wasn’t time to flesh Ginny out.

  • Harry and Hermione

However, the characters of Harry and Hermione are still likeable; Hermione is more balanced and impressive than in the books, where she was precocious but often socially awkward, and Harry’s struggles to connect with Albus are genuinely touching. This is particularly apparent in the scene where he tries to give him his baby blanket inherited from his mother Lily, with the promise of visiting Albus to be with it, and him, on Halloween, the anniversary of his parents’ death. Albus’ rejection of Harry’s heartfelt if clumsy approaches, together with his disdain after spilling Ron’s joke Love Potion over the blanket, is slightly heartbreaking to watch.

  • Draco

Draco Malfoy is less venomous and more comedic in the play; his desire to protect his son and his waspishness towards Hermione are realistic, but his scene where he and Harry childishly spar over the kitchen table is less so – would they really descend into puerile competition when their sons’ welfare is at stake? On the other hand, this scene typically illustrates the special effects well, and does highlight the suggestion that Harry is not at the height of his duelling powers, a fact that is also relevant in Part Two.

  • Staging at the end of Part One

The effects on the Dementors were genuinely creepy as they floated, wraithlike, over the stalls and the stage and a modern-looking Dark Mark symbol descended after the exit of the detestable Umbridge, now Headmistress of Hogwarts. To add to the magic, when we exited the theatre the decorations had been changed to match the drapes now decorating Hogwarts School, solidifying the impression that the wizarding world was changed, perhaps irreparably, due to meddling with time. I loved this – it was in keeping with the immense efforts of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando (and California) that really make you feel that you are there, experiencing everything as witches and wizards. Little touches like that can make all the difference to an immersive experience.

Part Two

After seeing Part One but before I wrote this part of the review, I drafted a couple of predictions that came true: that the changes brought about by time-turning would be fixed, and that Harry and Albus would form a stronger, wiser, father / son relationship.

  • Fixing the Time-Turning changes

I thought that this would be inevitable as J K Rowling would not want to undo all the work leading up to the end of Deathly Hallows.

In total, there were four trips to the past: the first, where Albus and Scorpius return to the first task of the Triwizard Tournament, which indirectly leads to Ron and Hermione not getting married and Hermione becoming a mean teacher; the second, where Albus and Scorpius return to the second task, which has the consequence of Harry being killed in the original timeline and Voldemort ruling over a dystopian world where Muggle-borns are tortured; the third, where Delphi, Albus and Scorpius go briefly to the maze of the third task; and the fourth, where they return to Godric’s Hollow in October 1981.

  • Consequences of the first trip

In this trip (played out in its entirety in Part One), Albus and Scorpius tried to stop Cedric doing well in the first task, with the aim of putting him out of the running of winning the Triwizard Tournament in the third, which led to him being killed after grasping the Cup / Portkey with Harry. They succeed in humiliating Cedric but find out that he only tried harder in the other tasks and was still killed, and in addition Ron and Hermione end up unmarried as an eventual consequence of Hermione becoming suspicious of Durmstrang students after Albus and Scorpius dress as two and Disarm Cedric, and therefore not going to the Yule Ball with Krum. I like the idea of Hermione and Ron’s romantic relationship being fragile enough to be derailed by this change, as it is arguably never portrayed as solid and inevitable in the books.

Other changes include the fact that Albus is sorted into Gryffindor rather than Slytherin. In his current timeline, wandering the Forbidden Forest looking for Albus, Harry encounters the crabby centaur Bane who warns him of a “dark cloud” surrounding Albus and the possibility that Harry may lose him forever. When Albus’ first trip to the past rewrites the current timeline, Harry reacts to this advice by forcibly separating Albus and Scorpius, making them both miserable and alienating Professor McGonagall in the process, although Albus and Scorpius eventually reunite, meet Moaning Myrtle and figure out how to try to take the second trip to affect Cedric in the second task.

Eventually, the consequences of this trip are reversed by the intervention of Hermione, Ron, Snape and Scorpius from the second trip (confusing, I know – see below).

  • Consequences of the second trip

In the second trip to the past (begun in Part One and continued in Part Two), Albus and Scorpius humiliate Cedric and take him out of the running of the second task. As mentioned above in the context of Part One, this has more dramatic consequences, namely a dystopian world where Harry was killed years ago and Voldemort rules (although we don’t actually see him in this version of the past) alongside a mysterious ‘Augurey’.

Draco, rather than Harry, is Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, but doesn’t seem to be essentially changed from the version of Draco in the play’s current timeline; he at first appears harsher, but ultimately displays his love for Draco and his wish to keep his family safe.

Scorpius is a popular leading figure in Hogwarts, known as the ‘Scorpion King’, who has apparently come up with the idea of torturing Muggle-borns in the dungeons. The Scorpius that we know is so likeable that this idea of him is not entirely convincing, but thankfully he manages to enlist Snape, still alive in this version of events (and a lot nicer than in the books, perhaps implausibly), and a rebellious Hermione and Ron, to reverse the actions against Cedric that led to this reality (as well as the actions of the first trip, described above).

As a side note, Scorpius discovers that Cedric, when humiliated out of the running of the Tournament, became a Death Eater and killed Neville Longbottom, who could no longer then kill Nagini, Voldemort’s final Horcrux, so that Voldemort survived. I wasn’t sure about this explanation – surely someone else could and would have killed the snake?

In any case, this retelling was the point at which I became convinced that this play is NOT SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN, as Ron, Hermione and Snape, three of the franchise’s most beloved characters, have their souls sucked out by Dementors – truly chilling to watch.

  • Intermission between the second and third trips – back in the original timeline

After experiencing the relief of getting Albus back, Scorpius lies to the adults and says he has lost the Time-Turner, while convincing Albus in secret that they need to destroy it. Ostensibly, this is because he doesn’t trust the Ministry to destroy it – an ongoing theme in a play where Hermione, as Minister, is often shown to deal with distrust and dissension. Some might question how Hermione and Harry, now Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, transformed from their original iterations as idealistic schoolchildren to Ministry officials – one of the problems with losing the detail of the time-jump between the books and the play.

Albus thinks they owe an explanation to Delphi Diggory about why they can’t save Cedric for Amos, and sends her an owl; in a fairly chilling scene, she joins Albus and Scorpius in Hogwarts’ Owlery, takes the Time-Turner from them and reveals a tattoo on her back representing an ‘Augurey’ (a sinister bird whose cry can signal rain), as well her background, namely an unhappy childhood presided over by Euphemia Rowle. The progression of this scene provides rewards for superfans who will begin to suspect Delphi more and more as each detail is revealed, and Scorpius also gets there, recognising Rowle as the name of a prominent Death Eater family. Even without prior knowledge, the recalling of the Augurey symbol after its mention in the dystopian second alternative timeline will sound warning bells.

  • Delphi as Voldemort’s daughter

To the credit of the writers, in Part One I didn’t suspect Delphi of being the villain at all; I think the menace was convincingly portrayed as being the breakdown of Harry’s relationship with Albus that would lead to dark consequences, and that this effectively pointed attention away from Delphi. I did realise who she was at the beginning of the Owlery scene, and it is pretty obvious that if Voldemort had a child it would probably be with Bellatrix Lestrange, given that he doesn’t really interact with other female Death Eaters in the books and the way that J K Rowling effectively portrays her lust for him, but that wasn’t a problem. The fact that the possibility of Voldemort having a child was raised as a recurring rumour in Part One is a clear signal that someone in the play might be Voldemort’s child.

However, the reveal of Delphi’s writing on the walls of her room all over the theatre walls and ceiling at the end of the first half of Part Two (I AM VOLDEMORT’S DAUGHTER) was still a nicely sinister touch. Also, the revelation of the fact that she was using the Imperius Curse to manipulate Amos into begging Harry to save Cedric through the use of a Time-Turner in Part One resolves the issue I had with Amos not being likely to do this.

The fact of Delphi being Voldemort’s daughter does raise a few questions. When was she conceived? There were no indications that Bellatrix was pregnant when she tortured Hermione at Malfoy Manor, around March of the year of the eventual Battle of Hogwarts, and you would think Harry, Ron and Hermione would have noticed if Bellatrix was heavily pregnant. Delphi says at one point she was born before the Battle of Hogwarts, so she was probably born some time before the Malfoy Manor events. I realised during the play that there is a clue that Bellatrix may have been pregnant or had already given birth to Delphi in Half-Blood Prince, when she says to Narcissa about Draco something like: “If I had sons, I would be honoured to give them up for the Dark Lord”. The use of the word “sons” rather than “children” might suggest that Bellatrix already knew she was having or had a daughter at this point, although it is unclear why only sons might be sacrificed for Voldemort (other than the probability that he is sexist – he certainly doesn’t have many women in his Death Eater gang).

Also, would Voldemort really have had sex with Bellatrix? It is clear from the books that she would have wanted to (she is described at one point as speaking to him “like a lover”), but he never seemed interested in mundane human acts, and it is difficult to imagine him desiring sex. It is possible that Delphi was conceived through a spell.

Why would Voldemort and Bellatrix have left Delphi in the care of Euphemia Rowle? Delphi says in the play that Rodolphus Lestrange, Bellatrix’s husband, broke out of Azkaban and told her the prophecy about bringing Voldemort back (discussed below), but wouldn’t Voldemort and Bellatrix have made more secure arrangements for Delphi’s upbringing? Were they so confident that they wouldn’t die themselves that they didn’t bother?

Delphi can speak Parseltongue, a gift which she may have inherited from Voldemort. It is also suggested that after Voldemort’s death, she is the Heir of Slytherin; is this really true, given that Voldemort regenerated in Goblet of Fire using the bones of his Muggle father, not his mother Merope Gaunt, and Harry’s blood? Like Voldemort, Delphi can fly without a broomstick; who would have taught her this? It was implied in Deathly Hallows that Snape learned this trick from Voldemort, but Voldemort died when Delphi was a baby or very young.

  • The new prophecy

Delphi cements her evil nature in the Owlery scene by using the Cruciatus Curse on Scorpius in an effort to manipulate Albus, and shortly afterwards, the Avada Kedavra Curse to eliminate Craig Bowker Jr, an innocent bystander. She thinks she needs Albus’ cooperation due to a prophecy she has been told in her childhood, by Rodolphus Lestrange, about “sparing the spares” (which could refer to sparing Cedric, and after her murder of Craig, Craig as well?) and “unseen children murdering their fathers” which would bring back Voldemort.

Scorpius points out that prophecies are not always fulfilled, that they can be changed, and if they were unbreakable you wouldn’t need to do anything to make them happen, a point also made by Dumbledore in Half-Blood Prince. Here, Scorpius’ words have the eventual consequence of making Delphi try to circumvent the original prophecy concerning Harry and Voldemort when her efforts to change the new prophecy fail.

  • Consequences of the third trip

Delphi’s interference leads to the third trip back to the past, as she wrenches Albus and Scorpius, wandless, to the third task of the Triwazard Tournament, where they encounter Cedric himself who unshackles them and temporarily stalls Delphi. Albus takes a moment to tell Cedric that his dad (Amos) really loves him, knowing now that they cannot save Cedric and they have to let him go to his death. However, I did wonder whether the presence of Delphi, Albus and Scorpius would mean that Cedric wouldn’t reach the Cup at the same time as Harry in that timeline (although it is not suggested that things play out differently to in Goblet of Fire after this re-writing).

  • Consequences of the fourth trip

After reappearing in the maze, Delphi drags the boys back further in time, to 30 October 1981 (the day before Harry’s parents died trying to protect him from Voldemort). They assume she is going to try to kill Harry as a baby and therefore change the future, and as she also destroys the Time-Turner, they are at a loss as to how to fix things until Albus comes up with an ingenious idea. They use Demiguise to burn a message into Harry’s baby blanket, so that when Harry looks at it on Halloween, when it will have reacted with the Love Potion recently spilt by Albus, he will be able to read it and know where they are. Impressively, this means that the scene described above, where Albus rejects Harry’s efforts to connect with him over the blanket, was weaving the threads of the plot as well as providing some valuable character moments.

Luckily, Draco Malfoy has hung onto another, more powerful, Time-Turner acquired from his father, and after Harry and Ginny discover Albus’ message in their timeline, they jump with Hermione, Ron and Draco back to 1981 to rescue Albus and Scorpius. They temporarily Transfigure Harry into a fake Voldemort to talk to Delphi so that they can subdue her; obviously this plan goes wrong when the Transfiguration doesn’t last quite long enough, but Delphi is not able to do much damage to Harry before Albus and the others intervene to hammer home the message that Harry, as against Voldemort and Delphi, is stronger due to the support of his friends and family. This scene slightly recalls Harry’s sparring with Draco in Part One, where Draco accused him of being rusty –  otherwise it is a bit of a stretch to believe that Harry, who successfully held off Voldemort several times in the books and was always hailed as great at Defence Against the Dark Arts, would struggle in a duel against Delphi, who may be Voldemort’s daughter and skilled in Dark Magic but ultimately is not Voldemort.

The group opts to return Delphi to the present time with them and send her to Azkaban, and to watch Harry’s parents being killed by Voldemort rather than prevent this. In this way, my prediction of the time-turning changes being fixed came true (although presumably some minor things would still have changed due to the double helpings of meddling in the first two tasks of the Triwizard Tournament, as well as Delphi’s meddling in the third). The character of Voldemort walking into the audience might be scary for children but is less menacing than the whispers of him Harry has suffered through in the flashbacks throughout the play (Haaarrry Potterrrrr …)

  • My other prediction: Harry and Albus will forge a wiser, stronger father/son relationship.

At the conclusion of the play, this prediction also, happily, came true. Both Harry and Albus honestly said they were not OK, when visiting the grave of Cedric, and found some common ground; you get the sense that they will at least be more patient and understanding with each other in future, and that the love between them has been affirmed. The final scene is genuinely very touching and memorable.

  • Who is the Cursed Child?

The obvious answer to this at the start of the play is that it is Scorpius, cursed by the rumours surrounding his parentage and then by the loss of his mother; alternatively it could refer to Albus, cursed by the pressures laid upon him by bearing the names Albus and Severus and by his father’s fame.

However, after you have seen the whole play it is more obvious to apply the label to Delphi, cursed by the abandonment of her parents (both dead) and by poor parenting by Euphemia Rowle who apparently only took her in for the money and gave her no self-worth.

It could also refer to Harry, who keeps dreaming of his own childhood, hearing whispers and seeing echoes of Voldemort. At the end of the play, Harry suggests in a conversation with Albus that although he lost the physical Horcrux part of himself in Deathly Hallows, he had not let go of Voldemort mentally which is why he was having these visions and his scar was hurting. It could also be theorised that Harry was having these visions as he was becoming connected to Voldemort through the messing with timelines, as in some of the timelines he would have been killed by Voldemort or Voldemort would still have been alive.

  • What did Bane’s warning mean?

Harry took Bane’s warning about a “dark cloud” surrounding Albus to refer to Scorpius, which is why he tried to separate them, suspecting that Scorpius might in fact be Voldemort’s child and would have a bad influence on Albus, or harm him in some way. As this is revealed not to be true, it is possible that the “dark cloud” actually referred to Delphi, as Albus felt connected to her at that point, or to the act of time-turning itself that would have surrounded Albus’ essence at different points in the play, which may have made his “destiny” harder for the centaurs to read in the stars.

Alternatively, the “dark cloud” could simply have been a metaphor for Albus’ feelings of disconnection from his family and his actions and their consequences as a result of this (i.e. time-turning and almost destroying the wizarding and Muggle worlds).

These performances:

Part One

All the actors were great throughout, but Anthony Boyle as Scorpius stole the show in most of his scenes, with an unusual combination of strangled comedy and tragedy. As described above, the Albus / Harry scenes were especially moving and Jamie Parker as Harry was every bit as good in this as he was as Sky in Guys and Dolls. Sam Clemmett had a difficult job as the character of Albus is not always particularly sympathetic, but he pulled it off with aplomb. I found out afterwards that neither Anthony Boyle nor Sam Clemmett were anywhere near the age they were portraying (both are in their 20s), but this doesn’t really matter and probably means they were able to bring more depth to their performances.

I noticed that some of the actors, including Jamie Parker, seemed to be using similar speech inflections to those of their corresponding actors in the films, which was a neat way of bringing the franchise together.

The magical effects came off without any hitches, even if sound effects were very occasionally not synchronised with what was happening onstage. The first time I saw the play, I was sitting in the stalls but not too near the front, which was probably ideal for enjoying the effects without seeing any makeup or strings or anything that could take away from the illusions. The second time, I was in the dress circle, where I could still see and appreciate everything. The haunting music from Imogen Heap including part of her hit ‘Hide and Seek’ provided good atmospheric background as well.

The Palace Theatre did a great job of merchandising: my partner Owl and I were unusually swayed by the magic enough to buy a programme before Part One, and then when we came back the next evening for Part Two, there were new souvenir photobooks to buy! (which obviously we did). We even bought a pen each on our second viewing of the play – from an extensive merchandise stall that you have to queue for but it is worth it (but I would say that, as I have merchandise from every Harry Potter event I have been to, including my payslips from working on the film and a Ravenclaw sweatshirt I am wearing right now).

Part Two

Jamie Parker was just as good in the second Part, with his final scene with Sam Clemmett’s Albus a highlight. Anthony Boyle had even more to do in this Part as some of his scenes were in the ‘second trip’ back in time without Albus, and did beautifully.

Esther Smith had to do a handbrake turn in her performance as Delphi as the character is revealed to be very different from the benign niece of Amos she purported to be in the first Part, and occasionally her lines about being evil and bringing back the Darkness felt a bit shouty and over-pronounced, but I assume she was being directed that way. It is also possible that this is because she was supposed to be Bellatrix’s daughter so she could be recalling some of Bellatrix’s exaggerated madness as portrayed by Helena Bonham Carter in the films.

Cherrelle Skeete as Rose Granger-Weasley was good in the few scenes she had, especially in the final one where she appears to be thawing towards Scorpius, which is probably why some reviewers and readers of the script have complained that Rose isn’t in the play enough.

The original cast as a whole did a really fantastic job, not least because there is a huge amount of material; I only noticed a couple of lines that might have been fluffed in the whole two-night extravaganza and they had to contend with a plethora of special effects, spells and quick scene changes as well. The movement direction by Steven Hoggett felt really sharp and ensured none of the scenes felt rushed but each transition was smoothly done with the swish of cloaks.

As you can tell from this monster review, there is a huge amount of material and a lot of possible interpretations: go along and form yours. Options for acquiring tickets include the Friday Forty (where a range of tickets for the next week are released every Friday); and wherever you sit in the theatre you are likely to benefit from the glorious staging and little magical touches that bring the play to life.

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