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Posts Tagged ‘J K Rowling’

I’m sure no-one is interested in my view, fifteen months after the show opened, but I shall record it nonetheless. What could have been cashing in on, or spinning out, a franchise is nothing like it. Though it is clearly a license to print money, its also some of the best storytelling and stagecraft I’ve ever seen. From page to screen to stage, Harry Potter proves to be the most enduring phenomenon.

Let’s start with the writing. J K Rowling, director John Tiffany and playwright Jack Thorne’s story begins nineteen years later, when school friends Harry, Hermione and Ron are married and parents themselves. This is an inspired idea, though it is the same as the epilogues of both the final book and final film, so Rowling may already have had the idea, if not the form. It enables us to return to Hogwarts with the next generation and to see the development of the generation we’ve grown up with, with flashbacks to their time in school, and even further. It’s densely plotted but completely lucid. Brilliant storytelling, just like the books.

Tiffany’s staging is fast-paced, with beautiful movement by regular collaborator Steven Hoggett, and it flows like a dream. Jamie Harrison’s special effects are some of the best I’ve ever seen on stage; to say more about them would be a spoiler. Christine Jones’ design manages to make us believe we’re in Kings Cross Station or Hogwarts’ Great Hall, but also smaller spaces like offices and libraries, even under the stairs at the Dursley’s. It’s brilliantly lit by Neil Austin, crucial to many of the illusions, and Imogen Heap provides a suitably atmospheric soundtrack.

This is the second cast, but they all seemed top notch to me, with Jamie Glover even looking like Jamie Parker! The trio of friends have grown up as you would expect – serious Harry (Glover), earnest Hermione (Rakie Ayola) and joker Ron (Thomas Aldridge) – all excellent, but I particularly liked Aldridge’s characterisation of Ron. In the next generation, Samuel Blenkin is terrific as young Scorpius Malfoy, son of Draco and a Hogwarts contemporary of Harry’s son Albus (Theo Ancient – very good). In what must be the biggest ever company for a West End play (38!), David Annen and Elizabeth Hill make excellent contributions in their multiple roles, Annabel Baldwin shines in her transformation and April Hughes gives a lovely cameo as Moaning Myrtle.

Late I may be, but terrific to report that it’s such a welcome and high quality addition to the London stage, about to become an export success too.

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Their other show, Potted Panto, was the biggest hit of all the show’s I’ve taken my youngest godson to, so this was a popular choice; I think we actually enjoyed it even more.

It takes its lead from the Reduced Shakespeare Company, who’s The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) first appeared over 30 years ago and really started the genre. That was 37 plays in 97 minutes. Potted Panto was 8 pantos in 80 minutes. This is all 7 Harry Potter books in 70 minutes – that’s the recession for you!

It’s a two-handed parody with no set but a lot of props (and extraordinary special effects!), with the audience participating in a Quidditch match. There’s a fair share of ad-libbing, which adds to the fun, and the humour is of the silly variety (with a welcome snipe at Michael Gove for dropping drama from the school curriculum!), but Dan & Jeff are very engaging and the show has bags of charm.

There are running gags about the show’s budget for actors and animatronics and exactly how many of the books Dan has actually read, Ron’s gone all ‘street’, Hagrid is suitably Scottish, and the train, snake, dragon and elf all make an appearance. The auditorium’s transformation into a Quidditch stadium is a hoot and snitch is simply extraordinary!

The real coup of the show is that it’s thoroughly enjoyable at any age – it was as much of a treat for me as it was for my godson and his chum – and that’s very unusual and very clever.

So what’s next? My vote is for all 11 Doctor Who’s in 110 minutes!

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