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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child review at Palace Theatre, London – ‘new cast equals the original’

Harry Potter (Jamie Glover), Ginny Potter (Emma Lowndes), Albus Potter (Theo Ancient). Photo: Charlie Gray
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Three weeks ago a new cast took over the lead roles of the most important theatrical event of a generation, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Tickets acquired online, we thought we’d see how the new actors compared to the original cast.

They more than match up. John Tiffany’s production, for the most part, remains exactly the same. The design, the choreography, the music – all still superb. The new cast closely follows templates left by the original actors. It’s more than just taking their cue, but not as blunt as outright mimicry.

This is particularly true of Jamie Glover’s Harry, following the brilliant Jamie Parker, and of Theo Ancient’s earnest Albus Potter, Harry’s son, who’s performance is very much in the mould of Sam Clemmett. While lacking – if only by a whisper – the range of the rest of the cast, it’s easily forgiven considering Ancient is a newcomer, and this his professional stage debut. He’s bound to grow in the role.

Samuel Blenkin, another debutant, plays Scorpius Malfoy. Anthony Boyle’s extraordinary performance in the role was universally praised; if anything, Blenkin takes it further. He adds shades of sadness to Boyle’s original; he hits higher peaks, building on Boyle’s astonishing foundations.

One actor breaking away from her predecessor is Rakie Ayola as Hermione. Ayola gives the show’s stand-out performance. This is a stunning, brand new Hermione. She’s less matriarchal, less assured than Noma Dumezweni, closer to the Hermione from the books, gleefully pally with Harry at moments, formidable at others.

As the twists of the plot demands, she fractures into alternate versions of herself with absolute ease and conviction, sometimes broken and bitter, sometimes devastatingly moving, as when she runs desperately across the stage to embrace her daughter.

This is a cast that easily equals the original. The performances owe a lot to them, certainly. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is still a phenomenon. It’s still extraordinary in every respect. It’s still all it ever was, just with a few new faces in the frame.

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’s new cast more than lives up to expectations as the play enters its second year