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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: "All we need is your imagination"

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: "All we need is your imagination"

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: "All we need is your imagination" cover photo on Stagedoor
Lyn looks at how this piece of event theatre par excellence still captures the hearts of London theatregoers and Harry Potter fans alike.

It has been seven years since Harry Potter and the Cursed Child took up residence at the Palace Theatre, and it shows no sign of disappearing in a puff of smoke anytime soon. A new cast has just been announced, with David Ricardo-Pearce playing the grown-up Harry, Polly Frame as Ginny, and Jade Ogugua as Hermione.

Rather delightfully too, the script is also being released in an edited form for use in schools so that they can stage their own version of the show complete with tips and creative techniques that will allow them to recreate some of the magic in the production, ranging from books that gobble people up to suitcases that transform.

Of course, some of these moments require special effects, but many were born of the poor theatre storytelling techniques that director John Tiffany and his team, including movement director Steven Hoggett, have both developed over long careers. Tiffany once told me that, as far as he was concerned, the best idea in the room is always the best idea, wherever and whoever it comes from. That’s a good thing for any director, however experienced, to learn.

The current West End Company in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, photo by Manuel Harlan.

So why has Harry Potter and the Cursed Child retained its magic? The main reasons I suspect are that it is event theatre par excellence; it plays to an audience who really, really want to be there; and because its power as a piece of theatre means it has appeal beyond those who are already fans of the books and movies. It is not an adaptation but rather an original piece of work that continues the story of Harry Potter 19 years after the final book has finished. He’s now working as a civil servant, and his much-troubled younger son, Albus Severus Potter, is about to embark on his own Hogwarts journey. But how can Albus be himself when every day he walks in the shadow of his famous father?

Fathers and sons is a recurring theme in theatre that has successfully mined daddy issues since the ancient Greeks were writing, and it's one that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child tackles with both gravity and an extra splash of magic. It’s perhaps why adults who have seen the play often respond to it even if they have no other knowledge of either books or movies.

It's a challenge for any creative team when taking on iconic characters who already exist in another medium and who have attracted a huge fan base. The reason why Harry Potter and the Cursed Child works is because everyone involved, including writer Jack Thorne, knew this and took enormous care.

The current West End Company in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, photo by Manuel Harlan.

As Tiffany himself said prior to the show’s opening, "I knew in my heart this is theatre on trial because we’ve all read the books and we’ve all seen the films and have an expectation." Anyone going anywhere near Harry Potter has to honour that, but what makes Cursed Child special and ensures its longevity is that Tiffany and the team created a show that could only exist in the theatre.

As Tiffany has said, "it’s not about comparing the stage show to the books and the films" but about doing "what theatre can do, and no other art form can. All we need is your imagination. So that was the guiding principle for us, and it felt very pure because of that. Like a kind of rough magic."

That rough magic has proved hugely potent and is the reason why Harry Potter has attracted both seasoned theatregoers, who are longtime fans of Tiffany, Thorne, and Hoggett’s work alongside an army of first-time theatregoers who are there because of Harry Potter. Cursed Child is remarkable in offering the best of both worlds and in more ways than one.

Cover image from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child now playing through the 19th of May 2024. The new cast will begin on the 17th of October 2023. Tickets available here.

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Written by

Lyn Gardner

New tips and reviews every week. If you're looking for innovative theatre, you've come to the right place.
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