When it was announced late last year that the Melbourne production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child would be ‘re-imagined’ in condensed form, anyone who had seen this thrilling and magical spectacle (awarded five stars by limelight) was probably wondering how this could all be cut.
Fear not, Muggles. This new three-and-a-half-hour (including interval) production, cut from the original experience into two five-and-a-half-hour parts, is just as thrilling and magical – probably more so, as the story is more focused and those theatrical effects to breathtaking are thick and fast. Fans may lament that there’s less to do, but everyone is more likely to get swept up (and show up because only one expensive ticket is required instead of the original production’s two).
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the cinema-exclusive sequel to JK Rowling’s books (and their film adaptations) about this famous boy wizard. Written by Jack Thorne based on a new story by him, that show’s director John Tiffany, and Rowling, it is set 19 years after Harry’s childhood adventures. He is now grown up and married to Ginny Weasley, as are his childhood best friends Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley. These characters, alongside their former nemesis, Draco Malfoy, are important to the story, but the focus is on two of their children: Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy, who become friends on their way to Hogwarts, the school of witches and wizards.
Albus struggles with the expectations that come with being the son of Harry Potter, who saved the world by defeating the evil Voldemort, while Scorpius is an outcast because his family sided with this arch-villain. original stories. With a forbidden magical device called the Time Turner, the boys attempt to turn things around by altering key moments from the past familiar to Potter fans. Of course, things don’t go as planned.
Several of the adult characters are still played by the original cast of the Melbourne production, including Gareth Reeves as Harry. There’s an appealing naturalness to his portrayal of a man who walks a tightrope of high expectations and also struggles to be a good father to Albus. Lucy Goleby continues to convey Ginny’s calm but firm personality, and Paula Arundell remains a towering figure as the smart and bossy Hermione. Newcomers include Lachlan Woods, whose sternness only partially hides Draco’s caring and vulnerable side, and Michael Whalley, who provides welcome cheeky humor as Ron.
Unsurprisingly, there are new faces for the young characters, including Nyx Calder as the clumsy, anxious but basically brave and kind Scorpius, and Ben Walter who plays Albus with a mixture of teenage angst and enthusiasm. Walter’s accent is strongly reminiscent of his character’s young father in the films, played by Daniel Radcliffe. This is just one example of how this piece attempts to replicate the voices if not the visual appearance of characters from the cinematic world of Harry Potter. Hannah Fredericksen in particular nails the laughs and sighs of naughty schoolgirl ghost Moaning Myrtle. She’s part of a great supporting cast that seamlessly glides between minor roles, or just adds exciting volume and movement to scenes.
There’s definitely a lot of movement, directed by Steven Hoggett and executed with precision by the actors. Hoggett, along with creators such as set designer Christine Jones, lighting designer Neil Austin, and Jamie Harrison, who conjure up the truly stunning theatrical illusions in this room, deserve a big thumbs up. Their collective genius creates stage magic that is in a class of its own, and amazingly almost entirely achieved through practical effects. Objects and actors float and fly. They appear and disappear, most often through the deft use of dramatically swirling capes, but also in ways that almost defy belief. In two of the most exciting moments in this play, the magic even happens in the auditorium itself. (The second loses some of its impact because it’s no longer an in-between cliffhanger.)
The films’ distinctive vintage look is brought to life through Katrina Lindsay’s beautiful costumes and a setting whose bones are clock-encrusted soaring arches and a wood paneled backdrop. Furniture, doors, and stairs are silently turned on, off, or even around the stage, adding to the feeling that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child moves quickly and like clockwork.
The only thing that didn’t go as planned on opening night was a medical emergency among the audience. The lights went out only five minutes later, giving the audience the confidence to think this unfortunate person was fine, enjoy what turned out to be the last minute of the play, and walk away amazed and delighted. Whether you’re young or old, Potter fan or neophyte, it’s must-have entertainment.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child currently playing at the Princess Theatre.