Taking place almost 20 years after we bid farewell to Harry Potter on Platform 9¾ in the epilogue of the final book from the Harry Potter series (and five years after the eight-part film franchise concluded), UK’s bestselling living author J.K Rowling made a decision to revisit the Wizarding World, much to the delight of Harry Potter’s immense fan base.
In 2015, Rowling announced that the next chapter would be revealed in the form of a play in July 2016, complemented by a script publication of the play to be released in the same month, on Harry Potter (and her very own)’s birthday of July 31.
Whether you are a fan who is for – or against – the continuation of Harry Potter’s life story after the seven books, you may still find yourself scurrying to get tickets online to the play at a not-so neighbouring country. We won’t judge if at the very least, you’d Wiki-ed the plot to find out what else Rowling has up her sleeves when it comes to the bespectacled wizard with a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child picks up right where we’d left the boy who lived and his friends in the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Starting at the epilogue 19 years after the Battle of Hogwarts, Harry and his wife Ginny are seeing off their second son, Albus Severus Potter, on his first year of school at Hogwarts.
Albus is accompanied by his cousin Rose Granger-Weasley (daughter of Harry’s best friends since school and the other two-third leads of the franchise, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger), when on board the Hogwarts Express, he befriends Scorpius Malfoy, son of Draco Malfoy (Harry’s former nemesis).
Without giving away too much (because #keepthesecrets), Harry Potter and the Cursed Child embarks on a whole different adventure of its own: parenthood, as Harry struggles to understand his prepubescent son, just as Albus goes through the motions of becoming a teenager. The rift between father and son deepens, especially when Albus is sorted into the House of Slytherin as Potters are traditionally known for joining the celebrated House of Gryffindor.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child continues to make its rounds across the globe; after its world premiere at London’s West End in 2016, it arrived at New York’s Broadway in 2018 and to Melbourne earlier this year, with opening nights scheduled for San Francisco, Hamburg and Toronto until fall next year.
Melbourne is the third city worldwide to welcome Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, not to mention the first in the Southern hemisphere and the only city in the region hosting the production. Currently showing at the Princess Theatre in Melbourne, more than 200,000 tickets were sold in four days following the release in August last year. Thanks to the overwhelming demand during the initial booking period, two new blocks of tickets were added for performances until May 17 next year.
To date, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the most awarded play in theatre history, with 24 major theatre award wins in the UK (including a record-breaking nine Olivier Awards for Best New Play and Best Director), and 25 in the US (including six Tony Awards for Best Play and Best Director of a Play).
Directed by John Tiffany, with movement choreography by Steven Hoggett, executive producer Michael Cassel saw to the manifestation of Rowling’s story in the Australian leg. These included the seemingly illusive and magical sets that served as an onstage playground for the leads and a company of 42 performers, to the immersive lighting and props carried out beyond the stage, paired with music and suite arrangements by renowned English singer/songwriter Imogen Heap.
A trained actor from New Zealand, Gareth Reeves carried out his role as Harry Potter with ease, thanks to his years of consistent theatre work throughout New Zealand and Australia in Shakespeare plays and modern classics. He was accompanied by fellow contemporaries of equal calibre: Lucy Goleby (Ginny Potter), Gyton Grantley (Ron Weasley), Paula Arundell (Hermione Granger) and Tom Wren (Draco Malfoy).
While Sean Rees-Wemyss headed the next generation as Albus Potter, it was William McKenna who stole the show with his fanciful and humorous portrayal of Scorpius Malfoy. McKenna has already made headlines in the local comedy circuit, having performed and hosted his own live shows with a group of teenaged up and coming comedians as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in 2016 and 2017.
Granted, there was some getting used to in the first act of the two-part play, especially when it came to the renowned trio portrayed by actors (and those from theatrical backgrounds, nonetheless) who were not Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint. However, the stage version of the characters grew on the audience over time, as the actors slipped into their characters like tailored gloves on seasoned hands. So much so that they may have changed the minds of initial naysayers to the eighth story, and have them rushing to the merchandise booths, purchasing memorabilia of new and more minimalist designs compared to the ones that accompanied the preceding books and films.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will continue its exclusive two-part showcase at Melbourne’s Princess Theatre until 17 May 2020, with tickets still available for purchase at www.harrypottertheplay.com/au.