Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Written on June 14th, 2022

For Potter Fans

Reviewed by Mary Alderson

There are three types of people:  1. Harry Potter fans who have read all seven books and seen all the movies. These people went in to deep depression when J.K. Rowling announced the end of the series. Then when the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child came out, they were thrilled despite the fact that Rowling didn’t actually write it. 2, People who are mildly interested in Harry Potter – perhaps you read one or two books along with the fan in the family, or maybe saw a couple of the movies. 3. People who know nothing about Harry Potter and have no interest. Worse yet, are those who slogged half way through a book before deciding it wasn’t for them and discarding it. Even worse, those who have no idea who Harry Potter is.

Type 1 – Go see this play. Type 2 – Don’t spend the money for a ticket to see this play, unless you must go to keep the type 1 person in your family happy. Type 3 – Stay away. You won’t like it.

I am a type 2, enough so that I could follow what was happening in the play, but not enough to understand all the nuances, inside jokes, and specific Potter language. (There’s a glossary in the program, but it’s obviously impossible to look up a word in the dark theatre.) It left me wondering why all the type 1 people are so excited.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is running at the Ed Mirvish Theatre in Toronto, and thanks to those type 1 fans, ticket sales have already been extended to December 24. The theatre has been fully renovated to house this play and the number of seats reduced from 2,200 to 1,600 to give the audience of the full impact of the special effects which this play demands. The masses are clamouring for tickets despite Mirvishes’ mask mandate which remains in place for now.

In Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, time has moved forward 19 years since the last of Rowling’s seven books. Harry is married to Ginny, Ron Weasley’s sister, and they have a son, Albus. Ron and Hermione are married with a daughter, Rose Granger-Weasley. Harry and his son Albus have a stormy relationship, and Albus is sent off to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Albus becomes friends with Scorpius Malfoy, the son of Harry’s arch-enemy Draco Malfoy. Obviously, this further alienates father and son. Albus and Scorpius travel back in time to right a wrong, which then creates other errors in history, so they are busy jumping back and forth in time trying to fix things. That’s about all that can be said without spoiling the plot. There is even a note in the program that warns readers not to look at the list of characters, as it could spoil the story.

Suffice to say that the main characters are well cast. But on stage, there are also many actors with extensive experience, well known for their strong acting skills, who are simply in crowd scenes or kept busy moving furniture in set changes. In particular, there is some complicated choreography undertaken with moving two staircases.

The need for a talented ensemble becomes clear when looking at the program. Each character in the show has “covers” (understudies, stand-bys, swings) ready to step in. Perhaps the fear of Covid has encouraged them to have a large ensemble at the ready to take over speaking parts as needed.

This play has received criticism for not following the characters’ personalities as carefully as Rowling did in the books. Sitting close to two young girls (I’m guessing in the 10 to 12 age range) I didn’t see this as a problem for them. They were quietly whispering to each other as the plot unfolded, comparing notes about the books they read.

The play has also been criticized for cashing in on Potter fans. That may eventually be the case, but with the theatre renovations needed to house the play, the expensive special effects, plus the large cast, it will be quite some time before any cashing in occurs.

What did I like about the play, as a mildly interested Potter fan? Well, the special effects were amazing. Magic happens before the audience’s eyes. Characters disappear and re-appear. Scary Dementors rise up to the ceiling, frightening the characters on stage and certainly those in the front row, too. Brooms and chairs levitate. Fireballs shoot out from magic wands at every opportunity, and the terrifying noises literally rock and vibrate through the theatre.

What did I dislike? The characters are constantly yelling at each other. Sometimes it is in anger and a necessary part of the plot. But other times they are yelling when a speaking voice would be acceptable. Also, it is too long – it ran from 1:00 p.m. to 4:30, with one intermission, and some of the time travel seems repetitive. But I guess it’s a big improvement: when it first came out, it was divided in two parts, two full plays. You had to see part one and come back another day for part two. As well, it is a very dark play – both the lighting is dim and the plot is dark. Don’t go if you enjoy uplifting, cheerful stories.

The audience included many young parents who probably read the books when they came out. They have now shared the books and movies with their children. So I can celebrate any play that brings families together to share reading and theatre, and if that’s the case in your family, go see it.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child continues with eight shows a week at Ed Mirvish Theatre, Toronto, and at present is selling tickets to December 24, 2022. Call Ticket King 416-872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333 or visit www.mirvish.com for tickets.

Photo: Brad Hodder as Draco Malfoy, Fiona Reid as Professor McGonagall, Trevor White as Harry Potter, and Trish Lindstrom as Ginny Potter. Photo by Evan Zimmerman.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Based on the story by J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne & John Tiffany
Play by Jack Thornes
Directed by John Tiffany
Performed by Sarah Afful, Kaleb Alexander, Thomas Mitchell Barnet, Michael Chiem, Mark Crawford, Raquel Duffy, Sara Farb, Bryce Fletch, Brad Hodder, Luke Kimball, Hailey Lewis, Trish Lindstrom, Lucas Meeuse, Kyle Orzech, Gregory Prest, Fiona Reid, Katie Ryerson, Yemie Sonuga, Steven Sutcliffe, Brendan Wall, Trevor White, David
D’Lancy Wilson, Shawn Wright.
Ed Mirvish Theatre, 244 Victoria Street, Toronto
June 1 to December 24, 2022
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

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