Accio! Lumos! and Ascensio! Our imaginary wands raised and lit, we ascended into the bluster of Cyclone Oma, teetered slightly and then winged our way down to Melbourne for the gala opening of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. This was to be a very special weekend. Our wonderful daughter, she of the techno-savvy fame had offered us her two opening night tickets – ahead of all her friends. We felt particularly honoured and made a special effort to appear as ‘smart’ as possible, as per directions on the invitation.
Our experience of Harry Potter began when my mother gave Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to our daughter for her 11th birthday. As each new book in the series was published each year, she and her friend Catherine would line up at Angus and Robertson bookstore in the city to buy the next one and race each other to see who could finish it first. We followed suit, devouring each book as the girls finished them. In 2001, the first movie was released and we were all hooked on Harry, Ron and Hermoine, along with the characters at Hogwarts, played by some of England’s premier actors.
The red carpet opened at 12 midday. We were ready for a marathon. HP and the Cursed Child runs for 5 hours; two shows each with an intermission and a two hour (or one day) break between Part 1 and 2. Suitably attired we arrived at the Princess Theatre, which was alive with reporters, cameramen and security guards.
The celebrities began to arrive – but we decided to indulge in the décor of the dress circle foyer. The whole theatre has been refurbished to highlight its Victorian splendour and its themed ambience. Beautiful stained glass windows featuring Mozart overlooked the counter selling HP merchandise. Inside the lamps were gryphon shaped.
The curtain opened on stage lighting up a jumble of large suitcases.
The show began at 1.30pm and our programs warned of spoiler alerts and to ‘keep the secrets’, so just a brief synopsis follows. Albus Potter, Harry’s second son and Scorpius Malfoy, Draco’s son meet on the Hogwarts express in their first year of school. The young teenagers become great friends much to the horror of Harry. They embark on an adventure spurred on by the fabulous witch, Delphi Diggory, to undo wrongs committed over 20 years ago. Harry, who is now Minister of Magical Law Enforcement suddenly finds his famous scar hurting again after 22 years. We’re transported back in time. This is a story of adolescent independence and friendships and the love of parents, which can sometimes have unintended consequences. Overarching all is the spellbinding magic which occurs on stage.
We couldn’t believe Part One had finished when the lights came up, leaving us pondering the return of Voldermort. Our tickets included a pass on the Hogwarts Express – read tour bus – to the famous Royal Exhibition Building, built in 1880 to host the Melbourne International Exhibition. We were the last to embark on our bus and climbed right down the back where we happened to be seated next to two famous Australian actors and their families. Known for their ribald humour, these two began riffing off one another about whether vasectomies were reversible or if a veterinary surgeon might have the best skills. Trying not to overhear was impossible and soon the whole of the back of the bus was involved in the hilarity. As we disembarked chuckling away, a young woman dressed to kill in 6 inch sparkly blue heels, literally plunged head first off the bus in front of us. Her heel got caught in the rubber tread. Fortunately unhurt and supremely embarrassed, she and we trouped into the Exhibition building to a sumptuous feast of finger food and rosé spritzes.
Part Two of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child began in a dark place. Dementers were around, swirling above the stage. We were fascinated – desperately wanting to question our stage manager expert on how the magic was unfolding – but we again became caught up in the story, such a strong and compelling narrative, hoping that good would overcome evil in the end. The excitement and wonder at the end of the show was palpable. What an experience!
Our evening ended back at the Royal Exhibition Building, this time transformed into a huge after-party with DJ, lighting reminiscent of the show we’d just seen, with the professional wait staff offering us all sorts of wonderful delicacies and endless drink top ups. We met parents of another ‘behind the scenes’ crew member – our daughters are friends and we happen to live within 50 km of each other. So proudly we compared notes of the journeys of these two – the early struggles to find their feet and the incredible belief in themselves and their wonderful work ethic. Our tech savvy one, from an 11 year old transported in her imagination into the world of magic and child heroes, dark forces and the power of love, has now graduated to making that wonder and magic happen on stage for a whole new generation of children. And we as parents couldn’t be prouder of Harry Potter and the Loved Child.