Readers, I apologise right now for what follows – to quote Scorpius Malfoy, the new love of my life, “My geekness is a-quivering”.
Trying to avoid spoilers about the biggest theatre production in the West End, nay, THE WORLD, is nigh on impossible, especially considering JK Rowling released the script for public consumption two weeks before I got to see it with my own (tear-filled, throughout) eyes. But I was determined: I refused to glance at so much as the flyleaf until the final curtain had descended.
And so, it seems, did the rest of the audience at London’s Palace Theatre, if the delighted, stunned and choked gasps that sucked through the aisles of the gorgeous gothic building were anything to go by. JKR has appealed to those of us lucky enough to have watched the spectacle; which is already completely sold out until the end of next year; to keep the secrets and not to reveal the treats in store for those who have that pleasure yet to come. And, as far as I’m concerned, whatever JKR says is law, so I can assure you this will be a spoiler-free zone.
What isn’t a secret, of course, is the fact that this is the long-awaited eighth instalment in the Potter story, taking up where The Deathly Hallows left off; on platform 9¾ at Kings Cross Station, as Harry’s youngest son Albus prepares to embark on his first journey to Hogwarts.
You won’t be surprised to learn that it’s not so easy being the son of The Boy Who Lived and the saviour of the wizarding world. It’s perhaps more of a burden than a legacy, and having been named after two of the bravest and most brilliant wizards in magical history, poor Albus Severus really does head off to Hogwarts feeling he’s got a hell of a lot to live up to.
And so, for rather different reasons, has Scorpius, son of Harry’s arch-nemesis Draco Malfoy. While Draco worshipped and did everything he could to emulate his own father, awkward young Scorpius doesn’t have the arrogance or confidence of his dad, and has pretty much accepted he’s not going to live up to the Malfoy family’s expectations.
So it’s befitting that the two fretful kindred spirits meet on the train, just as Harry and Ron met 26 years before, and form a wonderful friendship.
And what of Harry? Now a harassed Ministry of Magic employee with an ambitious, results-driven witch for a boss – sound familiar? – adult Harry is struggling with parenthood. A decade of living under the stairs with no loving family of his own hasn’t given him the best point of reference when it comes to being a Dad, and he’s at his wits’ end trying to bond with his young son. Add to that the fact that he’s still tormented by the fate of the Fallen Fifty and the other tragic losses that fell upon his conscience during his teenage years and dark dreams that have lain dormant for almost 20 years, and he’s got quite a lot on his plate too.
Over five-and-a-half magnificent hours, we watch Harry strive to restore relations with his son while working alongside his friends to search for the source of the unseen evil he senses. Elsewhere, Albus and Scorpius try to find their way in the wizarding world, each struggling with their own demons and desires; eventually setting a series of exciting, dangerous and devastating events in motion.
And what events they are! This is where the secrets come in and my lips shall remain sealed; but I can promise you jaw-dropping magical transformations, lightning-fast costume changes and spectacular how-did-they-do-that? visual effects that will see you repeatedly reminding yourself that the action is unfolding live on stage, not in a movie theatre.
For me, the original seven novels were all about a mother’s love – be she Lily, Molly or Narcissa – and what they were prepared to risk to protect their children. So perhaps it’s fitting that The Cursed Child explores the challenges and conflicting emotions of fathers and sons so thoroughly.
Earnest, sensitive and sometimes tortured Albus is beautifully played by Sam Clemmett, while Anthony Boyle absolutely steals the show as Scorpius. His anxiety, quiet cleverness and uncertainness is (seemingly) effortlessly offset by his brilliant, brilliant comic timing, making me, and I’m sure the rest of the audience, crave to see more of him. For an actor with a relatively short, but impressive list of credits to his name (which includes Game of Thrones, enough said), 21-year-old Boyle has a stellar career ahead of him.
Jamie Parker is completely convincing as our grown-up hero. Happily married to his childhood sweetheart – I’d have liked to have seen more made of the fabulous Ginny, she wasn’t fierce enough for me – his Harry is every inch the frustrated father with a million and one problems. Paul Thornley is PERFECT as our forty-year-old Ron with his brilliant one-liners and enduring devotion to Hermione, played by the incredible Noma Dumezweni.
Dumezweni’s faithful portrayal of Ms Granger (I was so pleased she didn’t take on the Weasley mantle) is fantastic; confirming that our brilliant and brainy witch becomes as powerful and impressive as we always knew she would, and continues to be the faultless foil to big-hearted joker Ron.
Let’s face it, a Potter play wouldn’t be a Potter play without frequent clashes between Harry and Draco – still dry, still drawling, but altogether a much nicer person brought alive in a emotional performance by Alex Price – and clash they do. So, some things haven’t changed.
Expect a few familiar faces to return to the stage (Sandy McDade’s Minerva McGonagall is bang on the money) and cloak-twirling, clever set changes that are as delightful as the head-spinning plot twists. Expect to laugh and stifle cries of joy and shock. Expect to stand at the curtain call with tears coursing down your cheeks. Expect this to be even better than you ever dreamed it could be.
Seeing how the terrific trio grew up in JKR’s magnificent mind is rewarding and satisfying. Watching the next generation make their way in the magical world is a joy. And while Rowling has conclusively told us that ‘Harry is done’ now, I know I’m not alone in begging for ‘just one more story, Jo, pleeeeeeeeeeease…’.
Tickets: 0330 333 4813; harrypottertheplay.com. Currently sold out until December 2017, but every Friday 40 tickets made available for the following week. Visit the website for more details and for any additional late release tickets, and hope with every fibre of your soul that more dates are announced soon. And that you beat me to them.
GT Rating: “My geekness is a-quivering”