What Critics Are Saying About Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child officially opens on London’s West End this Saturday, and in case you were worried that the new theater production couldn’t possibly live up to the magic of the original books (and therefore somehow mar your childhood memories of them), fear not. So far, critics are raving about Jack Thorne’s five-hour, two-part epic. Cursed Child picks up where readers last saw Harry and company in the epilogue of the seventh and final novel: in their thirties, sending their own children off to Hogwarts. By all accounts, audience members young and old, Potterhead and Potter-novice alike will leave the theater impressed and enchanted. Below, a sampling of their thoughts:

“British theatre hasn’t known anything like it for decades and I haven’t seen anything directly comparable in all my reviewing days … The big news is that this is just what was needed, will raise the benchmark for family entertainment for years to come and may even usher in a whole cycle of Potter-world stories. ‘Keep the Secret’ runs the show’s fearsome audience campaign to stay shtum about the surprises. But as for its merits overall: spread the word, by owl or any other means.” —Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph

“If I’m honest, I got as much pleasure from the staging as from the convoluted story. Tiffany and his designer, Christine Jones, have created magic out of the simplest ingredients. The set is dominated by Victorian gothic arches, more reminiscent of St Pancras than King’s Cross, and by the brilliant use of suitcases and portable stairways. An exciting escape on top of a moving train is evoked through a line of luggage and the estrangement of Albus and Scorpius is suggested by flights of steps that move as nimbly as Fred Astaire. Harrison’s magic, Katrina Lindsay’s costumes and Neil Austin’s lighting achieve triumphant fulfillment in the creation of the Dementors, dark forces who suck the souls out of humans and who float through the air like wraiths.” —Michael Billington, The Guardian

“I can happily shout out from the rooftops of the Palace Theatre – of all the theatres in the West End the one that most resembles Hogwarts – that this is a major work in its own right, with an entirely distinctive theatrical life and shape. It earns its place on the stage, feeling distinct from both the books and the screen adaptations. By turns playful and gripping, disturbing and detailed, poignant and powerful, it is superb family entertainment.” —Mark Shenton, The Stage

“It is, quite simply, spellbinding: The Show That Lived Up to Expectations — and Then Some. Three years after J. K. Rowling announced her boy wizard would hit the stage, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child — no mere rehash, but a whole new chapter — proves a proper theatrical blockbuster. Not just at the box office, but onstage as well: a captivating story given a spectacular staging and — Rowling’s specialty — a big, big heart. Twenty years ago, Harry Potter turned a generation onto reading. The Cursed Child could do the same for theater. Its secret is simple: Rowling’s fantastical world is realized not with high-tech wizardry, but through the rough magic of theater.” —Matt Trueman, Variety

“This is a work in which the past casts a distressingly substantive shadow. The past, as Faulkner would say, isn’t even past. This point of view saturates The Cursed Child, which seems to occur in a land of hypnotically luminous darkness that should mesmerize adults as effectively as children. By even existing, this play is destined to fight against the gravitational force of the memories of young readers. I mean the ones whose coming of age paralleled that of Harry Potter (who advanced from 11 to 17) in the books and the eight blockbuster films they inspired and who may want the Boy Who Lived to stay frozen forever as he was when they last encountered him.” —Ben Brantley, New York Times

“Would Harry Potter and the Cursed Child work on paper? I’m not sure. It’s quite apparent this isn’t written to be either a book or a tie-in film; it’s a spectacle for the theatre, one that is filled to the brim with fan service and magical imagery that will amaze. For any Potterhead who can get their hands on a ticket, it will no doubt be a fantastic experience; for those not already enamoured by Rowling’s wizarding, The Cursed Child is still captivating, but may be a slightly long ride.” —Jack Shepherd, Independent

“The production needs more moments to let the actors take a breath and play their roles rather than speeding through pages of script faster than Harry on his Firebolt. “You talk too much,” one character declares, but the same could be said for nearly everybody. Yet there’s something comfortably familiar about the excess too … There’s slight-of-hand, trap doors, wire flight, quick change, and smoke and mirrors galore. The cast seemingly had to become nimble amateur magicians to pull this off, and it’s impressive how many spell-casting elements of the Potter universe director Tiffany managed to portray in a live act (just don’t expect to see, like, Quidditch). During the preview I saw, each effect was executed almost flawlessly (though the Potter franchise should probably just avoid trying to pull off centaurs all together).” —James Hibberd, Entertainment Weekly

Critics Love Harry Potter and the Cursed Child