by Lynn on June 20, 2022

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the CAA Ed Mirvish Theatre, Toronto, Ont. indefinitely.

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany.

A new play written by Jack Thorne

Directed by John Tiffany

Movement director, Steven Hoggett

Set designed by Christine Jones

Composer and arranger, Imogen Heap

Lighting designed by Neil Austin

Sound by Gareth Fry

Illusions and magic by Jamie Harrison

Music supervisor and arranged by Martin Lowe

Video designers: Finn Ross & Ash J. Woodward

Cast: Sarah Afful

Kaleb Alexander

Thomas Mitchell Barnet

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

Yemi Sonuga

Steven Sutcliffe

Brendan Wall

Trevor White

David D’Lancy Wilson

Shawn Wright

Explosively magical. Dazzling, dark, complex and gripping.

Background: J.K. Rowling wrote seven books to tell the story of Harry Potter, an orphan, who found his magic when he enrolled in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft to become a wizard. Harry meets Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, who become true friends.  There have been several films that have also told the story based on the books. J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany created an original story for a theatrical production that played both London’s West End and on Broadway presented in two separate parts totaling about 7 hours? This new version has been condensed into one part that is 3 hours, 30 minutes long with one intermission. The programme offers a ‘spoiler alert’: that if you want to avoid story spoilers, then don’t read the character list.

The Story. It’s 19 years after the last Harry Potter book/story. While this is an original story, the previous seven books are referenced including incidents, characters and events. The adult Harry and his wife Ginny are at platform 9 ¾ at Kings Cross Railway Station, seeing their son, Albus Potter, off to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft. Albus is a solitary, lonely boy with few friends, and feels he can’t attain the ideal that is his father. Harry has a hard time bonding with Albus and vice versa.

Albus befriends Scorpius Malfoy on the train, who is also going to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft.  Scorpius is also lonely and aches for a friend, but that’s because his father is the much-maligned Draco Malfoy. Albus and Scorpius bond as friends trying to fit in and having a tough time. There is also Rose Granger-Weasley, the daughter of Hermione and Ron, and she too is on the train to Hogwarts.

The story is complex, involves a time turner that turns back time; creates all manner of incidents that Albus and Scorpius feel they must correct; is full of the pull of good over evil and vice versa.

Those who have read the books and seen the movies will know what is going on and who it involves. Those who have not read the books or seen the movies have a synopsis in the program to bring them up to speed, but might find that some incidents might be confusing. Do not be deterred. It’s an adventure. Some references at my performance had some of the audience gasping in recognition of the information. I recall the same reaction when I saw the two-part version of the show in New York. The 10-year-old girl beside me gasped at a reference to a character. I could not resist. I asked this young stranger who the character was. The kid happily told me who the character was, going so far as to describe how that character took her tea and that she liked three lumps of sugar in the beverage. You want a kid like that beside you. I have also found that the Potter-mavens are happy and willing to fill you in about what you might miss.

The Production. While the story is complex and complicated, the production, directed by the brilliant John Tiffany, reaches out to every single viewer and draws them in to the story and holds them with the blazing theatricality and the jaw-dropping magic—often simple, sometimes complicated. (Bring Kleenex. Your jaw will drop so often that drool accumulates).

We are primed from the get-go by Steven Hoggett’s movement and Jamie Harrison’s illusions and magic. All through the production characters carrying suitcases scurry hither and yon, their arms stretched out, holding the suitcase as if the character is being led by some pull of the suitcase; as if some unseen wind is pulling and driving them about and the character has no will to stop it. At the train station Albus (Luke Kimball), Scorpius (Thomas Mitchell Barnet) and Rose (Hailey Lewis) are in their traveling clothes and twirl in place, again as if a wind is swirling them, and magically, their clothes turn into the robes, capes and other swirly bits of Hogwarts, before out eyes. Magic.

Characters disappear up a small opening in a wall. Other times then appear as if sliding down a chute in another wall. Two moveable staircases simply bring characters up and down in scenes. Other times apparitions appear in floating material that hover ominously over the audience.

Even the simplicity of scene changes is given a sense of magic. For example, a bed is wheeled on by a character wearing the flowing robes of Hogwarts and placed centre-stage. A bedspread is flipped out to cover the flat bed and with a flourish of flipping the robe over the bed, it appears that there are two characters in it ready to do the scene. Every scene change is finished by that flipping of the robe over the placement of a prop etc. to suggest that it’s quick, efficient magic (and in a way it is—in a world where everything is breaking down, in the theatre things work, efficiently and on time.)

There are so many simple theatrical effects incorporating theatrical techniques that are over 100 years old (chairs floating in blackness because stagehands dressed totally in black are holding the chairs aloft) mixed with complex theatrical magic tricks that the viewer is dazzled by the inventiveness.

Acting styles vary. Luke Kimball as Albus, Thomas Mitchell Barnet as Scorpius and Trevor White as Harry Potter almost shout their lines, as if expressing a consistent urgency. Often lines fly by so quickly, as said by Kimball and Barnet, that information gets lost.   

As Draco Malfoy, Brad Hodder illuminates a man on the edges of society who is living with questionable reputation. He is ram-rod straight, imposing and must stand aloof to protect himself. Sara Farb as Delphi Diggory is charming with a mysterious dark side. Fiona Reid plays both Professor McGonagall with confidence and command as the head of the school and Delores Umbridge as a feisty presence as well. Bringing a sense of calm to Harry and Albus is Trish Lindstrom as Ginny Weasley. She is the voice of reason and thoughtfulness when her son Albus and her husband Harry are frantic and bellowing. Steven Sutcliffe plays:  the heartbroken Amos Diggory, grieving for his dead son; Albus Dumbledore, perhaps the most gifted headmaster of Hogwarts and Severus Snape troubled, contained and watchful. Sutcliffe plays each character with intelligence, nuance and compelling economy.

The whole cast to a person keeps the pace of this fast-moving production almost a swirl of robe flipping activity.

Comment. Theatricality and magic aside, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is really about things that matter to us all, whether we are creative wizards or ordinary people trying to get by. It’s about a father and son trying to form a bond but being awkward about it; it’s about friendship between Albus and Scorpius, both lonely, unhappy and finding each other and knowing that this friendship can withstand any opposition; it’s about trust, loyalty, determination, fidelity and love. Always about love.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will dazzle the kid with magic without question and will remind the adult that magic exists, they just might have forgotten that. 

David Mirvish, Sonia Friedman Productions, Colin Callender, Harry Potter Theatrical Productions present:

Runs indefinitely.

Running Time: 3 hours, 30 minutes, (with 1 intermission).

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