The verdict is in for "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child", with reviewers hailing the two-part play "a dazzling duel of light and dark" (the Guardian), "a triumph" (the Telegraph), and "a magical experience tailor made for the stage, filled to the brim with fan service" (the Independent).
The Palace Theatre today (26th July) raised curtains on embargoed theatre reviews, revealing glowing five star reviews from the Telegraph, the Independent, the Financial Times and the Evening Standard, four and three quarters for the Times, and four stars doled out by the Guardian.
Reviews for the five-hour plus play, conceived by J K Rowling, with director John Tiffany and playwright Jack Thorne, were filled with praise that the "eighth story" was indeed "tailor made for the theatre" (the Independent). Magic tricks dominate the first half of the play, according to reviews, with "thrill a minute stage craft" (the Guardian) and highlights including a moment where the stage is "submerged" underwater. The Financial Times praised "many stunning effects and several hair-raising moments."
New characters from the next generation of Potters and Granger-Weasleys lend "a breath of fresh air", according to the Independent, whose reviewer Jack Shepherd singled out Scorpio Malfoy as the play's "standout character".
Of the actors, the New York Times said lead Jamie Parker "does Potter pain beautifully", playing Harry Potter at middle age as an employee of the Ministry of Magic, and called Paul Thornley as Ron Weasley "delightful" and black actress Noma Dumezweni - whose casting provoked controversy earlier this year - "perfect" in the role of Hermione Granger. The Evening Standard said she brought “sober authority” to the role.
But the Financial Times warned the play is "long and bogged down by too much incident and too many characters." Made up of two parts, each more than two and a half hours long and split by a three hour break, The Times further commented: "It’s not so much a play as a weekend mini-break, a theatrical experience that lasts longer than some relationships."
The Guardian's main quibble with the "convoluted" play meanwhile was it will "make much more sense to hardened Potterheads". In particular, reviewer Michael Billington, who confessed to only having read one of the series' seven books, said both parts of the play "rely heavily" on a knowledge of Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire to get the most out of the experience.
The Evening Standard however said "there’s plenty here to delight even the uninitiated”, adding: "And for the legions of Pottermaniacs eager to be reunited with the characters they adore, this will be a magical experience."
The playscript, published by Little, Brown, is due out on 31st July, with a host of celebratory midnight openings and parties in the works to recapture the magic of previous launches.
In the US, Barnes & Noble yesterday (25th July) announced the playscript is the company’s most pre-ordered book since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 2007, adding the company expects it to be its biggest selling book of the year.