Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
In only its third staging, following London and New York, the gargantuan show that is Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has finally arrived in Melbourne in an extraordinary production which certainly lives up to the hype.
With a total running time in excess of five hours, designed to be viewed in two sessions, either at a matinee and evening performance, or over two consecutive nights, the show never drags. In fact it doesn’t seem long enough as it grabs you by the short and curlies, from the very opening scene on Platform Nine of Kings Cross Station, where the now adult Harry Potter (Gareth Reeves) and his wife, Ginny (Lucy Goleby) are farewelling their son Albus Potter (Sean Rees-Wemyss) on his way to Hogwarts.
Also farewelling their daughter, Rose Granger-Weasley (Manali Datar), also heading for Hogwarts, are Ron Weasley (Gyton Grantley) and Hermione Granger (Paula Arundell).
Although Harry has cautioned Albus to avoid contact with Scorpius Malfoy (William McKenna), the son of his arch-enemy Draco Malfoy (Tom Wren), the pair meet up and soon become best friends, setting the scene for a series of adventures, involving time travel, flashbacks and magical transformations, which entwine both families.
The flashbacks and time travel provide opportunities to incorporate references to incidents from the Harry Potter books which inspired this iteration, and although it’s not a musical, there’s plenty of music. Imogen Heap’s atmospheric score sets the mood for each scene, as staircases, suitcases, furniture and assorted props swirl around the stage. Nobody walks. Everybody hurries to, or from, somewhere. The actors swirl capes and deliver their dialogue in heightened tones, bringing a sense of urgency to every scene.
John Tiffany’s direction is masterly, carefully focusing the audience’s attention on the complex storyline which he punctuates with jaw-dropping illusions while disguising set and costume changes with dazzling movement as meticulously choreographed as any ballet.
His masterstroke, however, is obtaining interesting and absorbing characterizations from his actors amid all the razzle dazzle staging. In a very strong cast, many of whom play several roles, relative new-comer Sean Rees-Wemyss as Albus Potter and William McKenna, making his professional debut as his unlikely bestie, Scorpius Malfoy, both give engaging, star-making performances. Manali Datar also makes a strong impression in her first professional role as the effervescent Rose Granger-Weasley.
Gareth Reeves and Lucy Goleby give stylish performances as Harry Potter and his wife, Ginny, while Gyton Grantley captures most of the laughs as Ron Weasley. Paula Arundell is quite magnificent as Hermione Granger, and white-haired Tom Wren brings a conciliatory tone to his interpretation of the villainous Draco Malfoy. Among the many cameo roles, Gillian Cosgriff is a stand-out as Mad Myrtle and Soren Jensen is memorable as both Sorting Hat and Hagrid.
Although it was clear that the many Potterphiles in the audience, costumed proudly in their House scarves and beanies, were clearly grooving on the Potter mythology references scattered throughout the show, this critic, who has read none of the Harry Potter books, found this no disadvantage, quickly becoming engrossed in the cleverness of the storytelling, and the magnificence of the staging which incorporated the whole of the Princess Theatre, newly decked out in Hogwarts carpet and light fittings as part of a multi-million dollar renovation in preparation for this production, destined to be a must-see experience for anyone visiting Melbourne in the foreseeable future.
Images: Gyton Grantley as Ron Weasley, Paula Arundell as Hermione Granger, Gareth Reeves as Harrry Potter and Lucy Goleby as Ginny Potter; The Australian Cast of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child; William McKenna as Scorpius Malfroy, Manali Datar as Rose Granger-Weasley and Sean Rees-Wemyss as Albus Potter; & William McKenna as Scorpius Malfroy and Sean Rees-Wemyss as Albus Potter. Photographer: Matt Murphy