Can I call you Jo? J.K. Rowling just feels so formal and Jo just feels right considering I’ve been reading your books, seeing movies, and now attending your play in London written by your pen. It’s the false closeness of social media I suppose. Anyways Jo, here’s the thing…through HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD PARTS 1 & 2 (from here on out to be referred to as HPCC) you have proven to new generations that theatre is magic.
I know, lots of theatre people already knew this. But here’s the thing; your newest story about the “boy who lived” only reaffirms that the imagination, collaboration, and talent of all parties that are involved in a theatrical production are the true wizards.
HPCC starts out at the final scene from the last book. The gang is all there; Harry and Ginny with their kids, Ron and Hermione are there with their daughter, Draco is even there with his son to see them all off to Hogwarts for the first time. Albus Serverus Potter (that name, I know) frets about being nervous to attend this prestigious school, and the expectations his family name may bring. He finds a friend in Scorpius Malfoy (Why Jo? Why these names?) who is having a rough time of it himself due to rumors of his family. Together they become fast friends, make questionable choices, and accidentally start world ending stakes; typical Hogwarts activities for kids of their lineage.
Of course, this is all laid out in the script that was published and voraciously consumed by Potterheads worldwide….to some mixed reviews.
Reading a script is hard, it takes practice, massive imagination, empathy, and vision to be able to take the lines on the page and see the world around them. (Shout out to anyone who reads scripts as new season research, you all are the real heroes)
Not everyone is used to this, especially people who grew up reading the books of the Potterverse. There everything is laid out, the world is built, expressions are explained, and there is so much information. So when faced with a script, a few stage directions and not much else many thought it was lackluster, or even worse that it resembled fanfiction (Gasp!)
Here is where the magic comes in; the theatre takes this HPCC script, and breathes life into it in a way that makes it a true living and wholly appropriate part of the Harry Potter continuing world.
This world is darker, more complicated, and contemplative- like Harry and the last few books it grapples with big issues. How the past continues to impact the future. How to talk and connect with those you love. How a parents past can unknowingly lay on their children’s shoulders in the form of expectations, whether those are internal or external. Even if they get their “happily ever after” heroes still have to deal with PTSD.
The movement direction by Steven Hoggett is masterful. It is so vital to this world where mischief, magic, and mayhem combine that I hope he won all of the awards. Everything from how the ensemble walks, use their capes, or learn magic is made better and more interesting through his direction.
Christine Jones gothic set has intimacy and grandeur, the lighting by Neil Austin is gorgeous, the costumes by Katrina Lindsay are striking, and the special effects by Jeremy Chernick and the illusions and magic designed by Jamie Harrisons are spectacular. There are transformations that happen on stage, magic battles, travel via chimneys thanks to Floo Powder, and more.
The magical aesthetic of this world is so good that it’s easy to believe everything is actual magic, and not the work of cast and crew alike. It’s visually stunning and creative and the actors, directors, stage crew, and designers all created a world that is infinitely more impactful than you may see on the scripted page. It proves how important the works of everyone in the theatre are to make literal magic happen.
The ensemble is stellar, and Jonathan Case as Scorpius is truly a standout, followed by Joe Idris-Roberts as Albus. It’s not easy to be Harry Potter, but Tom Peters takes on the title role so well it’s easy to believe he’s the grown up version of our hero.
Sure, there are some quibbles. Are there some plot holes? Do some plot points and characters get skipped over to get to something else? Could it be a quarter shorter without any catastrophic loss? Yes, but honestly that’s 100% consistent to the books (sorry Jo, but it is true).
Nothing about the script as read can prepare you for the spectacle of this show. Nothing I can write can prepare you either. There is so much I could talk about but won’t because I promised to #keepthesecrets when I accepted that button. (Are buttons contractual? I should find out)
So Jo, thank you for creating and publishing the script from the play. Because of this people who don’t contemplate the multitudes of ways that theatre is magic have something to use as a starting point. After all, if they read the script they have the same base of what everyone involved in this show had to start. A page with a few stage directions and some lines set in the world you created.
The work of those in the production fleshed it out and made it real. Not on a movie screen with millions of dollars of CGI and post production polishing to make it happen. This is intimate; close up magic happening every day, only a short distance from the live audience of every performance.
I’d send an Owl, or even a Howler, but I think the internet might be more cost effective (do you know how much is costs to have an owl these days?)
You may have set out to tell just another story, but honestly Jo, you gave the world an opportunity to see just how magical the theatre can be. And for that, I am eternally grateful.
HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD is playing in London, New York, and coming to San Francisco. Go to www.harrypottertheplay.com to see what’s closest to you. This was written based on the performance I saw in London at the Palace Theatre.