I solemnly swear that this review will contain no spoilers. I’ll simply share a few thoughts that you might find interesting or helpful, if you’re thinking of booking to see the show on stage…
First of all – a comment about the staging. In a play about witches and wizards, you are going to expect some magic and I am pleased to say you will not be disappointed. Those of you who’ve read the script in advance might be wondering “how on earth are they going to show that bit on stage?” Suffice to say, it will be done fiendishly! Part One, especially, had the audience gasping with delight on several occasions.
Our seats were way up in the balcony and, even from there, the effects were brilliant. I suspect some of the magic scenes would have been mind-blowing for those lucky enough to be close up in the stalls or front of dress circle. My honest view is, if you can afford it, get the best seats you can and enjoy the spectacle close-up. But if you are on a tight budget, go for it anyway. Our seats were way up in the gods (row F of balcony) and were not expensive by West End standards – yet we still had a full view of the stage and action and were able to use the little binoculars for close-ups. The only exceptions were the occasional moment when the action was happening right at the front edge of the stage and the entire row in front of us leaned forward to see better and blocked our view.
My second comment is about age suitability. The group I was with included grown-ups and teenagers and we all loved it! But, personally, I don’t think I would recommend taking children younger than 12. Obviously this is going to depend on your child. If you have a die-hard 10-year-old Potter fan they might still prefer to go, rather than miss it. But I suspect the majority of younger ones will feel a bit disappointed not to find much material pitched at their age group. Most of characters are either teenage or adult and younger ones might find that some of the dialogue and relationships go a little over their heads. Also there are also one or two quite scary moments that would have properly spooked me as a younger child.
As for the casting, I thought it was pretty much spot-on. You really could believe that these were the characters you knew of old, 18 years on. (I am taking it as a given that anyone watching this play will be familiar with the books). If I had to pick holes, I’d say that one of the actors could have used a little more menace and gravitas in certain key moments – but not everyone in our group agreed with me on that.
Last, but not least, be sure to bring a tissue for Part Two! Having not read the script beforehand, I wasn’t prepared for how moved I was going to feel on several occasions and I noticed an awful lot of eye-rubbing in the row in front of us, too. But, fear not – just like the books, there are plenty of laughs, too.
If you are planning to book tickets, you might want to sign up for the newsletter so that you can be alerted when new batches go on sale. I had to book ours 17 months ahead of time, but I think things have calmed down a bit by now. Miraculously, thanks to the goodwill of the fans and the production team’s well-publicised ‘keep the secrets’ message, people seem to be doing an excellent job of reining in spoilers for those who haven’t seen it yet. Long may it last!