Lloyd Evans Lloyd Evans

Losing the plot | 4 August 2016

Plus: a timely, worthwhile play about the 1916 Rising at the Lyttelton Theatre that just isn’t good enough

Consider it commercially. So powerful is the pull of the Potter franchise that the characters could simply re-enact the plot of ‘Incy-Wincy Spider’ and the fans would swoon with joy. The stage show has been written by a two-man committee, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, with the help of billionaire equality campaigner J.K. Rowling. Harry is now 37 and working as a Whitehall clodhopper at the Ministry of Magic. He’s troubled by his stompy bed-wetter of a son, Albus, whose tantrums cause the middle-aged miracle-worker to suffer agonies of weepy self-doubt. Together they visit Hogwarts and the multifarious plotlines start to punch each other in the face.

Three kids — Albus Potter, Scorpius Malfoy and Rose Granger-Weasley (the surnames will mean something to Hogwarts votaries) — must acquire a gizmo that will allow them to revisit history and make adjustments affecting the future. They succeed. Well done, chaps. But this means all the relationships have changed in the second act and everyone is married to the wrong person. Poor dull Rose has vanished altogether. Novices will find this mystifying. Ditto the storyline, which includes a trip back to the first book where little Harry recounts a nightmare involving Hagrid and the narky old boot who adopted him. Pretty haywire storytelling. The plot has to operate on four planes at once: two timelines (Harry as a kid and Harry as an adult), and two parallel universes (before and after Harry’s son got the time-hopping thingie). ‘Will somebody please explain what’s going on,’ begs one character. A sure sign the plot’s gone nuts.

The visual tricks are passably good. A robed character disappears — choom — into a telephone socket. But when the stunt is repeated with three robed characters it becomes obvious how the job was pulled.

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