1. What is Harry Potter and the Cursed Child?
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the latest installment of the Harry Potter series and follows on from the events of the Deathly Hallows epilogue. Instead of publishing the next part of the story in a novel, as with the previous seven, it is instead being performed as a two-part play at the Palace Theatre in London with a book of the script to be published at the end of July 2016.
2. A two-part play?
Yes. Cursed Child is performed in two separate parts; Part One lasts 2 hours 50 minutes and Part Two lasts 2 hours and 40 minutes. Both have intervals lasting approximately 20 minutes included in the running time. You can either choose to watch the two parts on separate nights (for example, see Part One on Thursday night and Part Two on Friday) or you can book to see both on the same day. At present, both parts will be performed on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays with Part One only on Thursdays, and Part Two only on Fridays. The two parts make up one single story so you will need to see them both unless you either want to see Part One and be left on a cliffhanger or Part Two and not understand what on Earth is going on.
If you see both parts on the same day you will have the same seat for both performances and just over two hours between them—Part One begins at 2pm (1pm Sundays) and Part Two at 7.30pm (6.30pm Sundays). This is plenty of time to get some dinner and even visit some shops or do some sightseeing to stretch your legs between them. Make sure you arrive at the theatre in plenty of time, though, because you’ll need to go through a bag check and take your seat in plenty of time.
3. How can I see the play?
At the moment, if you don’t already have tickets booked, then getting them is second only in difficulty to finding an empty seat at Hamilton! When tickets went on sale last year they were so popular that the play booked up almost completely until May 2017, and at the time of writing no advance tickets are available. There is always the chance of getting a returned ticket either online or at the theatre, but these are rarities. Alternatively, you can enter the Friday Forty every Friday at 1pm GMT where you can enter a lottery to get a pair of tickets for the following week’s performance for just £40.
If you can’t wait that long, or if getting to London is out of the question for you, then you will be able to read the script in book format at the end of July 2016 and you can already pre-order it. At this time there is no word of touring productions, but given that the play is still in previews, it is almost certain that you will one day be able to see the show outside of London.
4. So what is the play about?
The hashtag for the play is #KeepTheSecrets—you’re even handed free pin badges when you exit the theatre with that printed on them! It’s hard to say much about the story without breaking that pledge but here goes. The play picks up right at the “19 Years Later” epilogue to Deathly Hallows. It follows both the golden trio (Harry, Ron, and Hermione, plus Draco) and also their children—specifically Albus, Rose, and Scorpius who are all in the same school year at Hogwarts. The two plot lines (one at Hogwarts, one outside) blend together, eventually merging into one story as the characters find themselves working together to solve this school year’s big problem.
5. Does this really feel like a return to Hogwarts?
From the perspective of someone who has attended the London play, categorically YES. The play has everything you would hope for from your return to Hogwarts. Moving staircases, opinionated portraits, the Forbidden Forest, the Sorting Hat, magic, potions, not to mention a whole lot of teenage drama. The London venue really adds to the Hogwarts vibe too and feels like an extension of the building we’ve all seen on screen. With the theatre staff all wearing Hogwarts ties, not to mention many of the theatre guests too, entering the Palace Theatre really does feel like stepping into the Wizarding World.
6. How can Potter-verse magic work on stage?
The magic was my biggest concern going into Cursed Child. After eight films, we have all become accustomed to believable and impressive magic in the Potter-verse and how could that possibly translate to a stage environment? I shouldn’t have worried. The magic is one of the best things about Cursed Child. It is positively breathtaking at times. Throughout the show, I heard the whole audience gasping in unison and frequently laughing at just how amazing it all was. One effect, in particular, was so well performed that it prompted a spontaneous round of applause from the entire audience.
7. Is it scary?
Yes. There are comparatively few scary moments across the duration of the play but when they do happen, they are truly terrifying. My heart was pounding for a solid 20 minutes after the conclusion of Part One, and at one moment during Part Two, I found myself almost crawling onto my husband’s seat! Personally, I would consider Cursed Child similar in tone to the movies of Order of The Phoenix and Prisoner of Azkaban, and yes, there is some serious dark magic involved plus discussion of much worse.
If your children can handle scenes in the movies like the dementors attacking Harry/the Hogwarts Express or Voldemort killing Cedric, then they should be fine with this. However, do keep in mind that thematically similar moments are significantly more intense when experienced physically in a room with you, and maybe only feet away depending on where you’re sitting, so plan accordingly.
8. Is there merchandise?
Is water wet? Yes, there’s plenty of merchandise available and it begins at under £1! Alongside the usual programmes and tees, there are some stuffed owls, Hogwarts house ties, and a selection of other items which are—all things considered—fairly well-priced. Without wishing to give any spoilers, if you’re on a budget then you might want to hold off until the start of Part Two before choosing what to buy as some more items *might* get added to the stand based on the events which have unfolded so far. I didn’t notice anything extra added at the end of the night though so you don’t need to wait right until the end to make your decisions.
9. Who is the Cursed Child?
10. Does Cursed Child really feel like more Harry Potter?
In my opinion, yes. Tonally, it is perfect. I found myself laughing myself silly, trembling in fear, and, yes, sobbing my heart out (my God J.K. Rowling—that one scene, how could you do that to me?!) just like I did in all the later books. There are some issues with the story; in particular, one important element that is central to everything feels deeply out of character to me, and a number of characters are notable by their absence, although the appearance of many I wasn’t expecting to see did somewhat make up for that aspect.
This play is not perfect. It was never going to be and none of the books that came before it were, despite what our own nostalgia for them may tell us. There are plot holes, there are some dud lines, but taken as a whole, it is a wonderful piece of storytelling and a wonderful addition to the Harry Potter universe. I’m already hoping to see it again one day and looking forward to reading the script in a few weeks time to remind myself of the joy I experienced seeing it on stage.
In order to #KeepTheSecrets, comments to this post will be heavily monitored and any spoilers posted will be quickly removed.