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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child hits Melbourne: Our take

by on February 24, 2019
 

Harry Potter in Melbourne? Yes! Harry Potter and the Cursed Child opened in Gala fashion at the Princess Theatre on Saturday 23rd February 2019. This followed a month or so of Preview Shows since mid-January.

Probably any self respecting fan of the J. K. Rowling series of stories already knows all this, especially if they live in Australia, New Zealand or much of Asia. For the rest of us, you may need to find a reason to go, like ‘Is it any good?’ ‘Does the story stand up?’ or even ‘Can I manage two separate performances, whether both on one day, or over two?

But first, an admission. This writer is neither a ‘Potterhead’ (a fan, possibly even a fanatic), nor one who’s read any of the books or seen any of the movies. However, I did discover that I, like most in the real world, am a ‘Muggle’. That means a non-magical person apparently, a term coined by J. K. Rowling herself.

Harry Potter in Melbourne – what you need to know

This is a stand alone story. While you’ll see your familiar characters from the books, there are some new ones. It’s specially written for the stage and doesn’t have a book or movie version in the waiting. This helps to #keepthesecrets so others who come to the show will be surprised and enjoy the twists and turns.

  • J. K. Rowling didn’t write this play as she did the books. The credits describe it this way…

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

  • The story comes in two parts, each with two acts, which you’ll need to watch consecutively. You can do this on one day – a matinee and an evening performance. Or if you prefer, do it over two evening performances.
  • It’s the same show you’ll see in London or New York. The story hasn’t been changed for different audiences.
  • The set design is the same across all venues. They are truly remarkable and scene changes are seamless.
  • All the productions have the same director. We had the pleasure of meeting John Tiffany, who shared some insights into the idea and development of the play.
  • The actors are locals, from Australia and New Zealand. Most are fresh faces and only one is currently a household name in the entertainment industry.

The theatre

  • The Princess Theatre was given a comprehensive internal and external refurbishment in 2018 to prepare for this production. The stained glass was re-gilded, the carpets, wall lights and other details took on a Harry Potter touch. The theatre is listed in the National Trust of Australia.
  • They’ve even got a nest on top of the copper awning outside the entrance! It ‘weighs a ton’, they say, or more accurately, just under one tonne. The winged nest holding a small child is the play’s logo and is also seen adorning the theatres in London and New York.

So who should go?

To make it easier for those who are ‘thinking about it’, worried they ‘won’t have a clue’, or ‘conscientious resisters’, here’s a breakdown into 6 basic groups of folks who may be considering going. Or not. Some groups overlap and some people fall into more than one group.

  • Fans
    • Fairly obvious, this one. There would have been a large number of members of this group at the Preview shows. And there’ll be lots waiting for their chance to go now it’s officially opened.
  • Those who’ve read the books and or watched the movies.
    • OK, so you’ve heard about the show. It’s neither a book nor a movie. Does it live up to the hype?
  • People who’ve neither read any books, nor seen the movies for any of the previous seven stories.
    • This includes those who don’t even know the names of the characters.
  • Those who are going just to keep a dedicated fan company. (This one is sweet)
    • This group includes those who’ve given the tickets as a special gift to a special someone.
    • And those who are going only because the fan wanted company, otherwise wouldn’t bother.
  • Someone who’s never been to a live theatre show.
    • It seems about 70% of those attending indicate that this is them.
  • Dedicated theatre goers.
    • People who enjoy live performances. Both regulars, who’ll go for anything ‘live’ and those who pick and choose their performances.

The verdict?

This writer attended a preview show where media were invited for the first time. Like everyone else attending, we also have to keep the secret. But we also had to not tell anyone we’d been to see the show until now. As previously indicated, I belong to Group 3 above, but I do love live theatre. I struggled a little during the first Act (the part before the intermission on Day 1). There was a lot of action, movement and magic that kept me on my toes, but it took me most of the Act to sort out who’s who.

By Act 2, I was sorted and was able to follow the action and get an idea of the developing story. After a good sleep and a think about the plot and putting things in place, Acts Three and Four were much easier to follow. I was clapping as loudly as anyone else in the theatre when it was time to do so. 

I must give top marks to the story development and acting. The stagecraft was truly amazing (in the old-fashioned sense of the word). Scene changes likewise. So as not to give anything away, I’ll just say the play keeps you on the edge of your seat. You should expect to leave the theatre feeling it was all worth it. There is definitely something to excite and inspire people from every group mentioned above.

On a tight budget?

Each Friday, 40 tickets for every performance the following week will be released via TodayTix. These are some of the best seats in the theatre at $40 per part, per ticket ($80 total for Part One and Two). The tickets are known as ‘The Friday Forty’.

Visit harrypottertheplay.com/au/the-friday-forty/ or TodayTix for more info.

images ©Matt Murphy, ©LL

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