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Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child delivers a magical experience, despite some missteps

An illustration of Harry Potter Artwork by Shrawani Bhattarai

Melbourne, along with Broadway and West End, is currently one of three cities to be graced with the magical two-part production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a stage sequel set 19 years following the Battle of Hogwarts. The Melbourne production, produced by Michael Cassel, runs in the refurbished Princess Theatre, which underwent a $6.5 million makeover to resemble a magical Hogwarts experience.

The play follows Albus Severus Potter, son of Harry, through his Hogwarts experience, struggling to live up to the Potter name. Albus’ unexpected bond with Scorpius Malfoy, son of Draco, leads them on an adventure that will have Potterheads young and old rethinking all the assumptions made in the seven-book series.

The story itself not been without controversy. J.K. Rowling’s insistence that the play be canonical has created huge implications for the universe, particularly with the re-introduction of time-turners allowing characters to travel decades into the past to interfere with events from the original storyline. Despite the more ludicrous aspects of the script, Jack Thorne’s vision of the Potterverse brings justice to the original story and characters.

The play featured outstanding performances from the all-Australian cast. Notable mentions include Moaning Myrtle (Gillian Cosgriff) and Professor McGonagall (Debra Lawrance), who managed to stay amazingly true to the original characters, whilst offering a never-before-seen flare that stood out on stage. The show was stolen by lead William Mckenna, playing Scorpius Malfoy, who, aside from memorising a ludicrous amount of fast-paced lines, left the entire audience in hysterics. Some performances were not executed quite as well, including that of Hagrid and Ginny Weasley-Potter, the former of which came across as a rather forced and unnecessary inclusion, the latter of which seemed incredibly blunt (although Rowling’s Ginny Weasley was hardly a well-written character to begin with).

The play was also a visual spectacle. From the special effects that had audiences questioning the realism of centaurs on stage, the movement of stage props and characters behind a masquerade of twirling wizarding cloaks, to the giant dementors merely inches from giving you a personal kiss of death, the show surpassed all expectations. There existed a splendid combination of old-fashioned theatrical tricks and effects that left you shaking your head at the artful choreography.

What appeared to be an obvious queering of Albus and Scorpius in both the play and script was quickly backtracked with an act of cowardly heteronormativity — poor form for the play, considering the casting of Hermione Granger with a black actress in the name of progressive values. To merely flirt with the idea of diversity is tacky and exploitative, just as Rowling has, and continues to do with Dumbledore and Grindelwald in the Fantastic Beasts series. We are yet to see an out and proud queer character in the world of Harry Potter. I would have imagined a stage production to be an ample opportunity to introduce a queer storyline. Part One of the play had me more than hopeful that a queering of Albus and Scorpius’ relationship was occurring — but it seems, in the steps of Rowling’s original story, Thorne intended on prioritising the theme of friendship, expecting audiences to just disregard the fact that the two characters were inches from an on-stage embrace just moments ago.

Harry Potter and The Cursed Child is an impressive, magical experience, worth the weekend getaway for fans and acquaintances of the Potterverse alike. Have you the chance to go, you can head to the Imperial Hotel’s Diagon Alley inspired rooftop, in between Parts One and Two, for a Lightning Bolt Parma and Butterbeer.