- Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
- Written by: Jack Thorne
- From a story by: JK Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany
- Director: John Tiffany
- Actors: Trevor White, Luke Kimball, Thomas Mitchell Barnett
- Company: David Mirvish, Sonia Friedman Productions, Colin Callender, Harry Potter Theater Productions
- Venue: CAA Ed Mirvish Theater
- Town: Toronto, Ont.
- Year: Until December 24, 2022
- COVID-19 measures: Mandatory masks until further notice
Choice of the critic’s inner child
Harry Potter and the Cursed Childthe global theatrical blockbuster that opened a long-awaited Canadian outpost in Toronto this weekend, is an absolutely breathtaking live production.
While I’m a theater critic not sure what to make of such an action-packed, fan-service play, the child inside this damn reviewer had a blast.
What British director John Tiffany and his frequent choreographic colleague Steven Hoggett created with their team of magicians – I’m referring to both the literal magicians and the designers behind the miraculous staging – kept my inner kid in suspense for almost 3 and a half hours.
Meet Christine Jones, the Canadian set designer who imagined the magical world of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
I was amazed when the Dementors floated high in the CAA Ed Mirvish Theater (where the chandeliers were falling). I’ve been amazed to see wizards somehow transform into other wizards in plain sight after swallowing Polyjuice Potion. And my jaw really dropped – like, right out of my mask – when a time turner was activated and sent a shockwave through the air that seemed to kind of turn the solid set, briefly, in liquid.
Now, if you don’t know what a time turner, polyjuice potion or dementors are, I won’t bother to inquire – because I can tell you right away that British playwright Jack Thorne’s play , at least in the way it’s been condensed from two parts into one for its North American iterations, isn’t for you.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – based on a story conjured up by Thorne with help from Tiffany and JK Rowling herself – assumes pre-existing knowledge of the Potterverse and, indeed, you’ll need it to feel anything for its cavalcade of characters at the exception of two brand new protagonists.
The first of these is Albus Severus Potter (Luke Kimball), the underachieving son of Harry Potter (Trevor White) and Ginny Weasley (Trish Lindstrom).
On his first-year train ride to Hogwarts, Albus befriends the series’ second hero, a gratingly-voiced misfit named Scorpius Malfoy (Thomas Mitchell Barnet). Scorpius is the only son of Harry’s old enemy Draco Malfoy (Brad Hodder) – although his biological father is rumored to be the late dark magick butler Lord Voldemort.
Both Albus and Scorpius are assigned to Slytherin house and the first three years of their schooling, during which they bond as they are regularly bullied, are covered by a prologue that speeds by like a runaway train. .
The action of the play begins in earnest and only slows slightly, on the eve of Albus’ fourth year at Hogwarts – when he launches into an all-out fight against his famous father and deeply hurtful words are exchanged.
In an act of filial rebellion, Albus enlists Scorpius on a dangerous mission that he hopes will right a wrong his father was involved in long ago. The plan is to steal a recently recovered Time Turner from the Ministry of Magic (where Harry Potter and his old friend Hermione, played by Sarah Afful, now work) and use it to turn back time to save Cedric Diggory.
Now if you ask “who is Cedric Diggory?” so… are you really still reading this review? This room is not for you, I say. (Though I’d say it wouldn’t hurt even those familiar with the books or movies to refresh the 1994 Triwizard Tournament that ended with Cedric’s death.)
At one level, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child can feel like Hollywood’s profitable obsession with intellectual property and endless sequels, prequels and reboots that trickle down to theater. But, in reality, it is rather the commercial culmination of the boom in young adult theater seen in Britain over the past 15 years.
During this period, non-musical productions based on books such as Battle horse and The curious incident of the dog in the night which were more notable for their innovative direction than their screenplays found musical-sized financial success in the West End and Broadway (and, occasionally, Toronto).
Harry Potter takes this British theatrical know-how to a a whole new level – even if Thorne’s screenplay has more obvious weaknesses, not least in its disconcerting, low-stakes approach to time travel and its oddly coy approach to a strange relationship that makes this play feel like, like the first books, was written in the 1990s rather than 2016.
The acting in the huge, hard-working company of this Toronto production, however, is impeccable. Kimball and Mitchell Barnet both give honest portrayals of teenage awkwardness and angst – and admirably let the audience come to them.
To name a few others, I was grateful to Gregory Perst for the sympathetic awkwardness he inserted into the series as Ron Weasley – and to Fiona Reid for bringing her polish and panache to the proceedings in a few roles that I will not name. avoid spoiling the fun for the fans.
As for Harry Potter himself, the excellent White has the meatiest material – bringing the game as close to evolution as possible, playing a father who is lost in part because he’s lost a series of fathers in his life. Thorne’s screenplay features roses in its wise lines on the paradoxes of parenthood. “We can’t protect young people from harm,” another person-who-must-not-be-named-spoiler-told him. “Pain must come and will come.”
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