'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two': What the Critics Are Saying

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Early reviews of the play that features a grown-up version of the boy wizard are all positive.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two, the new play billed as the "The Eighth Story. Nineteen Years" in the series about the boy wizard (now grown up) opens in London on July 30, where each part is shown in a separate seating. It has been in previews for a month and the reviews are finally out for the much anticipated theatrical production that is sold out until next May. The early word is extremely positive, praising the story, the staging and the costumes. 

Secrecy has been tight on the play based on an original story by Potter creator J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany and written by Thorne. Starring in the play are Jamie Parker, Noma Dumezweni and Paul Thornley, who play Harry, Hermione and Ron, respectively. (The casting of Dumezweni, who is black, generated a lot of online discussion from fans who assumed the character could only be white.) 

The official synopsis gives little away: "While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places."

Writing for THR, Leslie Felperin praised the staging, noting "it turns out that the medium of theater is a better fit for the material than film." She concluded that "he result is an entrancing theatrical event that generously serves fans and newcomers alike."

Many critics went out of their way to avoid spoilers, including The New York Times’ Ben Brantley, who wishes for “a wizard’s spell that would allow [him] to tell you everything, and then erase it completely from your memory.”

What they do reveal are positive notes from the complex plot, effects and well cast actors. “It’s plot is built on a fantasy that most of us indulge from early childhood: What if we could rewrite our own histories?” Brantley writes. A premise that he says is “well-suited to the purposes of The Cursed Child," which he concludes "turns everyone in the audience into a sorcerer’s apprentice" by the end. 

The Guardian’s Michael Billington, who wrote that he relied on the expertise of his 11-year-old grandson to explain parts of the plot, which also “rely heavily on knowledge of the fourth book,” (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) praised not only the performances, but also the stage itself. “If I’m honest, I got as much pleasure from the staging as from the convoluted story,” Billington wrote. “[John] Tiffany and his designer, Christine Jones, have created magic out of the simplest ingredients.” It was also Billington’s grandson who said: “If you’ve read the books, you’ll get more out of the play.”

With all of the gleaming reviews, Entertainment Weekly still made sure to point out that this preview version still has some room for improvement, speaking on the “overstuffed” Part One section, with “some lengthy exchanges and a couple unnecessary scenes that could be cut altogether,” James Hibberd wrote. He also noted that the lengthy conversation and “abundance of exposition” is classic to Rowling’s style, and what makes the play a more “loyal adaptation of Rowling’s writing than the films,” a view echoed by fellow critics.

The Los Angeles Times also wrote that flaws, if it has any, are that the show “is a lot, if you don’t care for wizardry.” But even with the complicated plot, with certain opportunities that arise “suddenly and conveniently,” according to Chris Jones, the events “play out in ways mysterious and mystical.” “At a certain point, you come to see that the audience feels so secure in the authenticity of their experience, they’ll go anywhere and believe most anything,” Jones wrote.

Time’s Theo Bosanquet also briefly touched on the shroud of secrecy surrounding the opening of Cursed Child, and how many assumed it was to cover up “negative word of mouth.” Bosanquet discredits these claims in his review, writing “the truth is that they have succeeded on both fronts. This enchantment will turn even the most doubting Muggles into true believers."