Day Five: The Unexpected But Quite Incredible Treat
Other than the WB Studio Tour, there’s another Must-Do Potter-related activity in London at the moment, IF you can get tickets. I’m talking, of course, about the record-breaking, award-winning theatre event that is The Cursed Child, running since 2017 at the Apollo Theatre.
I tried to get tickets when we started planning our trip, but they were so completely and thoroughly sold out that I half-expected the website to laugh at me when I tried. I hadn’t been that hopeful to begin with, and the ticket prices are so out of our league that we would have had to sacrifice other parts of the holiday to accommodate them. It’s just one of those things, I told Uchenna.
Fast forward to our second night in London, which found us happily ensconced in the flat of two very dear friends of mine – my best friend from high school, Etiene, and his darling husband, David. They’re also Uchenna’s godfathers, and they take the spoiling of god-daughters to new heights every time we see them. This time was no different. Uchenna was presented with an envelope. In it was a bespoke wordsearch which, she was told, would reveal the surprise present they’d bought for her. “Another present…?”, I enquired drolly – we’d already been presented with tickets to Wicked and Mathilda. Cue much concentration from Uchenna, who bent her mind to the puzzle for the next 20 minutes while the guys and I sipped Prosecco and caught up. David was a magician in the kitchen and was halfway through recounting a tale that involved the shelling of many, many broadbeans when we were interrupted by a squeal. She was so excited she could barely talk – she simply pointed , wide-eyed, at the words she’d scrawled at the bottom of the word search:
Harry Potter and The Cursed Child
“Etiene,” I gasped, “What have you done?”. Rather bemused by the look on my face, the Godfathers produced another envelope holding two tickets. Not being particularly up on all things Potter, they were a little taken aback by our reactions – girly screams and squeals and hugs from Uchenna and a lump the size of a golf ball in my throat as I stammered my thanks and wiped my eyes. ‘Goodness, darling’, remarked David, ‘I hope it’s as good as all that.’.
And it is. Oh my…it is.
The play is in two parts, either set over an afternoon and evening or on two consecutive nights. The running time is well over 5 hours in total, with intermission breaks during both acts. Our tickets were for the same -day showing of Part One and Part Two, with a two and a half hour break in between.
I don’t think I’ve ever queued for anything with more nervous anticipation. I must have checked and rechecked the tickets 100 times in the time it too to make our way around the Shaftesbury Avenue side of the Palace Theatre, around the back and along Romilly Street to the security tent at the entrance on Charing Cross Road. Our bags were thoroughly searched (jellybean stash found and allowed with a wink and a nudge) and then we were inside, and it was real and FINALLY HAPPENING. Settling into our seats, I whispered to Uchenna that she should try to remember everything – absolutely everything – about this experience, because it’s never anything other than a privilege to watch a show at The Palace. The lights dimmed, the actors took their places, and it began.
Here, I’m going to disappoint you a little. There’s an agreement that all watchers of The Cursed Child have with JK Rowling, and it is simply this: don’t give the magic away. So I won’t. I won’t tell you what happens or how it happens or who it happens to. I won’t divulge a single plot twist or spoil a single secret. I will simply say this: watching The Cursed Child with Uchenna was one of the best experiences of my life, and without question the best theatre event I’ve ever attended. And I’ve been very, very spoiled in that department! I saw Les Miserables twice at The Palace in my twenties, as well as almost everything else on the West End at one stage or another. I love the theatre and have seen countless musicals, comedies, Shakespeare productions, one-man shows, farces, pantomimes and historical dramas since my early teens. I count as one of my foundational early experiences a viewing of The Island at the Market Theatre with Winston Ntshona and John Kani when I was 16. I’ve been very, very spoiled indeed.
The Cursed Child is, without a doubt, the most magical of them all. Utterly brilliant. I’ve never seen stagecraft like that, and I don’t expect to again. Being able to share it with Uchenna – to watch her face as the magic unfolded – was the best part of the whole trip, for me. It was everything.
You don’t have to be a Harry Potter fan to love it, either. Every theatre fan should see this play. Please see it.