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Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Is “Played to Perfection” by Its Actors


I engaged in a lot of speculation in the days leading up to attending Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. My husband and I purposely didn’t read the play or any reviews before we saw the show, save for this Mary Sue article about the removal of live owls. (I took this disappointing news hard.) We both wanted to be completely immersed in the experience. So, for several weeks, I was filled with questions: “Do you think there will be moving paintings?” “Will there be ghosts?” “What about Hagrid? Will he be in it?” My concern was for the details, the stuff that makes the books so engaging that without them, the story will not feel as—dare I say it—magical.

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Y’all, the details are present and then some. Since I am bound by #keepthesecrets button confidentiality (everyone was handed this on a button as we left the performance), I shall not reveal the how of everything. Instead I will do the most “non-review” review possible and share my four main observations of the play.

  1. The casting was spot on.

    Full disclosure, I cried four times during the play. The first was when we initially see Harry, Ron and Hermione together. Paul Thornley, who plays Ron Weasley, is phenomenal—funny, touching and so clearly captures Ron’s loyalty. I found myself enchanted by his interpretation of Weasley life. Jamie Parker, our grown-up Harry Potter, plays Harry as a man whose emotions are still as much on the surface as they were when he was a boy, reinforcing that Harry will always be tortured by his past. The difficulties of growing up were present throughout the story, specifically the idea that being an adult doesn’t mean we are grown. This was something that was lamented by Alex Price, whose portrayal of Draco Malfoy focused on a man who not only had to live with the sins of his family, but who continues to struggle with his father’s doctrine. You could see Price wrestling with Draco’s Death Eater-based socialization, particularly when it comes to raising his son while still having to interact with the rest of the wizard world. Lastly, Noma Dumezweni, our Hermione Granger, was hands down my favorite. She had to balance many incarnations of Hermione, her bravery, brains and calm approach to the chaos of the wizard world. Noma Dumezweni played Hermione as the badass we all know her to be and did everything in heels for most of the play. Plus, there were many nods to the feminist household Ron and Hermione live in, from the hyphenated last name of their children to hints that Ron is part joke-shop-owner and part stay-at-home-parent.

  2. Ron, Hermione, Harry and Ginny’s kids are going to be okay.

    Cherelle Skeete, who plays Rose Granger-Weasly was both wonderful and tragic. Her performance was stunning, she presents Rose as the perfect blend of Ron and Hermione. Cherelle Skeete’s energy level was through the roof and every time she was on stage you couldn’t take your eyes off her. The tragic part was that she was not given more to do; her character is sparse after the first half of the show, and clearly Skeete could have handled more. Sam Clemmett, who plays Albus Severus Potter, filled the very large shoes of Harry Potter’s son nicely. One of the reoccurring themes of the show (and the HP canon in general) was the troubles of being an outcast. Sam as Albus and Anthony Boyle as Scorpius Malfoy are those people. If Rose fits in and excels at everything, Albus and Scorpius fail. Sam Clemmett’s portrayal of Albus was what the play promised, a teenage boy whose famous father’s image is so daunting that he must either rebel against or surpass it. Anthony Boyle’s presentation of Scorpius is not at all what one would expect from a Malfoy. He is goofy, book-smart, nerdy, awkward and totally weird. Like many folks in the theater, I could relate. Boyle was so good in this role. It was like watching a shapeshifter on stage.

  3. How does one overcome a stigma?

    This theme was clearly one of the cruxes of the play and manifested especially in Draco. Price’s portrayal of Draco, a man who has had almost every adult figure in his life fail him (and who struggles with his place in the wizard world as a result) blew me away. Draco was given a lot more layers in this story, as a parent, a husband and a man trying to exist in a society that does not trust him. In the books, Draco always felt like a shadow figure and in the films I thought he was played up more as a boy whose jealousy and privilege where poisoning him. It was nice to see him as more than this. Don’t get me wrong, there are no scenes where he is holding cute bunnies or skipping through fields of flowers. Rather, layers manifested in the ways Price presented Draco as a complicated man, someone who wants to help his son become more than the product of Death Eaters.

  4. Boys can cry.

    All of the characters, and the actors portraying them, presented themselves as multi-dimensional people. Rose was not only smart, she was a jock. Ginny writes for the sports section of The Daily Prophet and also is a loving mother in an egalitarian household. (Harry does the cooking.) Hermione runs the Ministry, Ron works part-time, and their children hold both their last names. But what was most telling was the friendship that grows between Albus and Scorpius. Both boys are allowed to share their deepest feelings with each other, without ridicule or judgement. They express their fears, hug a lot and demonstrate that boys can share a good cry. We also see this with Harry and Albus. Harry allows his son to see him crying and devastated. Even Draco gets a few moments where we realize how close to the surface his emotions run, yet Draco is more aware of the restrictions masculinity places on expressing his feelings.

In short, The Cursed Child lived up to my expectations. Please accept my apologies for the lack of details in this non-review review, but I do fear the wrath of Professor McGonagall (who was herself played to perfection by Sandy McDade) if any secrets are revealed.

image via Little, Brown Book Group/Cinemablend

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Adrienne Trier-Bieniek, PhD, is a gender and pop culture sociologist. She is the author of Sing Us a Song, Piano Woman: Female Fans and the Music of Tori Amos (Scarecrow Press 2013) and the co-editor of Gender and Pop Culture: A Text-Reader (Sense 2014). Her writing has appeared in various academic journals as well as xoJane, Gender & Society Blog, Feministing, and Girl w/Pen and she runs the Facebook page Pop Culture Feminism. Adrienne is a professor of sociology at Valencia College in Orlando, Florida.

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