I guess that I had better begin by explaining where I am on the Hogwarts spectrum. I enjoy the Harry Potter franchise. I read the first three books and really liked them. I have watched all the films, including the fantastic beasts one, although I couldn’t say exactly what happened in which film, especially the ones towards the end of the series. So, I know all the main characters pretty well, but I’m not a person you would invite to be on your team in the Harry Potter trivia quiz.
This play is written by Jack Thorne, although it is based on a story by him, JK Rowling and John Tiffany. However, it does really feel like it is written by JK Rowling because it is, first and foremost, a really good story and she does know how to construct a good story. I’m not too sure why it is separated into two plays, because it is a single adventure and I suspect that if you were to just see part two, you wouldn’t have a clue what was going on at the beginning. So, if you are planning to book, do see both parts and do see them in the correct order. Never have I been to the theatre and been warned so often about revealing the plot; luckily, I prefer leaving the storytelling to the playwright so rarely reveal plot twists in a review.
The story is great, not particularly complicated or cutting edge, but it is told in convincing detail over the course of five and a half hours. We know most of the main characters already, having lived through their adolescence, and I have to say it is interesting to see them all fully grown up with children of their own. The actors playing these parts have a tough job, taking over characters with whom we are already very familiar, but needing to bring their own ethos to the role. They all cope admirably with this challenge, Rakie Ayola and Jamie Glover are good as Hermione and Harry. I loved the reimagining of Ron Weasley; Thomas Aldridge’s character probably did have a little more of a free rein for development given his incidental part in the story, but it is very funny and he delivers it well. The new people are really the stars in this show, Theo Ancient is very good as Albus Severus Potter and Samuel Blenkin is fantastic as Scorpius Malfoy. April Hughes has a wonderful, scene stealing cameo as Moaning Myrtle.
The magic and special effects are spectacular, it is one thing seeing them on film as we are used to, but seeing them around you in the theatre really adds to the excitement. The effects are constant throughout the show and they are all top notch. The sets are clever and engaging, there is always something new to attract your attention, not an easy achievement over the course of such a long play. The choreography felt clunky at first, with too many flourishes, but you come to realise that this is necessary to help the magic along, and by the end I was full of admiration for the choreographer – with a company of 43 people, military precision must have been crucial.
These were the most expensive tickets I have ever bought, so it needed to be good, but I have to say that even so, I still feel that they were good value for money.
Fantastic Beasts and where to find them is a good addition to the line of Harry Potter films.
It has a very strong cast and great special effects. The characters are well written and likeable. It has the added bonus of being a magical historical costume drama – set in 1920s New York City.
I particularly liked the supporting cast of characters. Kowalski and Queenie have a lovely interaction, Colin Farrell is smoothly unpleasant as Graves.
It had lots of wonderfully inventive ideas and many of the fantastic beast are really fantastic. If I were to pick a fault, it would be that some of the set pieces were too big and too monumental because they reminded you of what they were, tableaus to show off their, admittedly very good, special effects. The storyline is quite slight but, because everything else about the film is so satisfying, it hardly matters.
The 3D was the best I have seen, it was clever without being intrusive. It is worth going to see this film in a big movie theatre because of this and in order to get the full impact of those special effects.
I have to say that I will be looking forward to the next one in this franchise.