When adults started to read them too, the Potterverse became a popular phenomenon on the scale of Agatha Christie novels. And it’s worth remembering that Christie’s only play – The Mousetrap – holds the record for the longest running theatre show of all time. It opened on the West End in 1952 and continues to this day.
Harry Potter and The Cursed Child may take some time to challenge that record, but it stands every chance of doing so.
One gripe about the novels is that once they achieved world domination, the author became uneditable: each successive volume swelled to unwieldy length. The stage play was a chance to trim the fat, and it distils what’s essentially an eighth Harry Potter book into an epic with the locomotive pace of the Hogwarts Express.
The next generation of witches and wizards enters the fray in a meticulously orchestrated, and technically masterful, theatrical spectacle, worth seeing for the stage magic alone. The show’s jaw-dropping illusions put David Copperfield to shame, and just when you think you’ve seen every spell in the book, it pulls out something even more spectacular from its bottomless bag of tricks.
Yet without a compelling story and accomplished acting, even these pyrotechnics would fail to enthral over five and half hours. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has both, and it’s magnificent to see actors in their second year at Hogwarts together with fresh cast members (notably Nyx Calder as Scorpius Malfoy and Michael Whalley as Ron Weasley) still nailing the show.
Greatest admiration is reserved for continuing actors whose performances have deepened and become richer over time – Gareth Reeves, Lucy Goleby and Sean Rees-Wemyss, in particular, anchor the epic, portraying Potter family drama with an immediacy, an intimacy that makes you struggle to believe there’s any disbelief to suspend.
Leads from Paula Arundell’s Hermione to Tom Wren’s Draco still revel in bringing new developments to familiar characters, but it’s such an ensemble piece that there can’t be a weak link. The entire cast brings the wizarding world to life with verve and, given the show’s high technical demands, incredible discipline.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will attract and delight those who have never darkened the doors of a theatre. It will reward Potter devotees up for seeing it six or seven times. And if interstate audiences anticipate the production touring any time soon, don’t bet on it. The show’s as strong a year in as it was at premiere, and Hogwarts looks set to remain at the Princess Theatre for the foreseeable future.