What better topic to discuss on Halloween than Harry Potter?? I've been a Harry Potter fan since I was eight years old and my aunt read a chapter of The Chamber of Secrets to me and my cousins. It was love at first reading, and I went into full child fan mode within months. I wrote Harry Potter plays for me and my cousins to perform and next gen fanfics as creative writing assignments in school (in one particularly thrilling one, Harry and Ginny hosted a barbecue for their friends). I immersed myself in it fully, and if I'd known then that sixteen years on, I'd be flying to London to see the continuation of Harry Potter on stage, I would have been thrilled.
Sadly, sixteen years on, The Cursed Child proved to be quite a disappointment. The book was terrible, but reading it, I'd hoped that the play would be better. It wasn't. It was "thank goodness the theater bar has happy hours" levels of bad. I've heard people calling it bad fan fiction, but I don't think that's fair. It's more like – and I owe A for this comparison – like a four-hour-long SNL skit making fun of Harry Potter... or as the Duke of Bookingham put it, like a parody of A Very Potter Musical. It was whiny, it was full of manpain and teen angst, and it all felt very hokey.
I think most of the experience can be summed up by a small scene I witnessed in the theater bar before the second part of the play started. I came across a mother-daughter pair, and the daughter (maybe seven or eight years old) was begging her mom to go upstairs because they needed to join the merchandise queue, and the mom just sighed, and firmly announced, "No, Mummy needs a cocktail."
Nursing my own cocktail at the time, I sympathized and many cocktails were had that night.
Still, I enjoyed myself at the play quite a bit. There's quite a lot in going to bad plays in excellent company. A reacted similarly to every bit of the play as I did, and we had a marvelous time quietly bashing it to each other. We went through it together, and we had fun, and I don't at all regret going.
London in October seems to have become a mini tradition. I went to visit A last year, and we went again almost on the same dates this year. Part of the tradition also seems to be going to different plays while we're there. Last year, we saw Measure for Measure at the Young Vic with Romola Garai, and this year we traveled to London in order to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. We had our suspicions that it would be terrible, so we also decided to see Emma Rice's Imogen at the Globe to balance things out.
I'd never been to the Globe before this, while A is somewhat of an addict, going on every Shakespeare trip his university offers and having seen every Globe production so far this season. Needless to say, he was keen on our going. I was a bit skeptical at first, not because of Emma Rice, but because I can easily get bored with Shakespeare productions. I've been to my fair share of RSC productions over the past few years, but it took me some time to come to terms with the fact that I wasn't enjoying them so much as telling myself that I had to enjoy them (or, well, enjoying being in the same room as David Tennant). I'm an English lit postgrad after all. I may not be an Early Modernist, but like, how dare I admit that I'm not huge on Shakespeare and expect to be taken seriously? But seriously, I'm not huge on Shakespeare, and I'm not scared to admit it anymore. I enjoy the pop culture around him and his work (like Upstart Crow this year? I loved that), I enjoy watching some of the plays, but I dislike reading them and I need the ones I watch to be really good, engaging productions.
And that really, really was the case with Imogen. I should have known based on the title and Emma Rice's reputation alone. Imogen was a reclamation of Cymbeline, placing more weight on the female characters and adapting it to a more modern setting. I know a lot of people are mad at Emma Rice for stepping away from traditional Shakespeare (and I absolutely get that in relation to the Globe's historic function), but I for one am glad that the first production I attended at the Globe was one of hers. I enjoy Shakespeare much more when it's been updated and made more relevant. Every moment of the play was engaging and almost over-the-top and I don't think I zoned out at any point. A bitter old couple sitting behind us were horrified by the whole thing – including one moment at the end when the audience booed the conservative government, and I tend to judge the innovative success rate of any production based on how horrified traditional old people are.
All in all, I'm happy that we went and I'm tempted to tag along on A's next Shakespeare trip... at least to London... to see what else Emma Rice does next summer.
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I'm Olivia, a twenty-six year old grad student studying in Switzerland. This is where I share my thoughts on the academic journey, culture, travels, baking, and my daily life abroad. Read More.