Planning a Hamburg trip required: Watching Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in German (Harry Potter und das verwunschene Kind)

Happy Hufflepuffs in Hamburg at Midsummer infront of the Mehr! Theater

Hamburg’s Potterheads celebrate House Pride Week and we are visiting on Hufflepuff day. My basic Potter knows Cedric Godric and Luna Lovegood as those wearing the yellow Hogwarts uniform, but I rely on the decorated banners everywhere, promoting the houses’ values for selfies and other photo opportunities: Hard work, patience, justice, and loyalty. Worth paying attention, the foyer decoration will be updated during each break. What stays are huge, beautiful murals of patronus animals (the totems of JK Rowlings fantastic universe) and I expect to see airbrushed tattoos of these masterpieces in a year’s time here – they are absolutely stunning!

I spent some time walking around the foyer assuring I did not miss any of these fantastic murals

A real guide dog in front of them truly adds to the magic. Corona restrictions delayed the German premiere of Harry Potter after several public dress rehearsals in 2019 to December 2021. The Mehr! Theater, Hamburg’s biggest theatre , opened in 2015 with a capacity of 3500 people, hosted the London Philharmonic Orchestra for its opening night.

Loving that these murals are not movie-driven but speak for themselves

The story with its many turns and twists follows Harry Potter’s youngest son Albus unhappy stay in Hogwarts whose only friend is Draco Malfoy’s son Scorpio – a friendship between two characters (and characteristics) no one would predict who has followed their fathers’ feud in seven books and eight films. It looks like author JK Rowling attempted to tidy up the happy cliché of boarding school suiting everyone, and braves through a lot of common mental health topics like belonging and loneliness, confidence, wrong and unreachable expectations, the pressure of fitting in, grief, bullying, empathy, responsibilities, trauma and even bedwetting.

Less promoted, this play is a feast for train enthusiasts

Their (in)famous fathers, focussed on their missions at the Ministry of Magic, are of little help –  neither of the two boys can stand their dads who both might mean well but fail to connect. Initially, I almost fear sitting through five hours of dragging, soppy family conflicts, but this mega play has an immense level of darkness to it. As annoying as the comic relief moments seem in the beginning, they are necessary: Tired, bored and angry at being identified with the fame, glory, contempt and rumours surrounding their families, the unlikely friends bunk off the Hogwarts Express to escape the teasing and bullying, and equipped with a Time-Turner they want to correct the not always too glorious past of their families, often based on outdated ideals…

Expect witches and wizard duelling, paintings and staircases coming to live, floo powder in action, centaurs, flying owls and threatening dementors, numerous body switches (masterfully performed), a bewitched bookshelf worth its own Jumanji spin-off and a trip to a care home for retired, senile wizards and witches – along new characters and unexpected reunions with heroes and villains of the past in several alternative book canon variations. My favourite (aside from a Plattdeutsch speaking train warden) is the Moaning Myrtle, a ghost doomed to haunt a girls’ toilet, but by tonight I will have warmed up to adult Draco Malfoy and a long believed-to-be-dead Slytherin professor as well.

Lamps I’d like to see in the gift shop

As someone who was a wee disappointed with the saga’s end (every surviving character marries their best friend or their sibling and becomes a civil servant – boring) I am okay with the almost quiet finale after the boss enemy crescendo. But then I have never been a Potter ultra.

No matter how creative the announcements are to switch off mobile phones before each part, I hear ringtones in each – shame on you, Muggleworld! Leaving the venue in the late yet light midsummer night, we are handed out a reusable Hufflepuff goodie tote containing a poster, cup, a button and a postcard. Public transport is usually included in Germany’s theatre tickets but because of the incredible 9 Euro ticket campaign for the whole of the Bundesrepublik this June, I do not even check if it is. Organising one of the longest theatre days (with no real hope for a discount opportunity) takes some planning, especially in times of flight cancellations. All we did was keeping the afternoon free: Ordering our tickets online on the very morning of us visiting both parts in one day is not problematic. We commit to 4,5 hours of performance, a 20min interval in each part and between those, a break of 2,5 hours.

Bringing your own bottle of water into the theatre space is not allowed – board games are okay though

Declining the restaurant offers we could have booked with the seats, we ended up with some Asian noodles in a street corner imbiss about ten sunny walking minutes away from the theatre, discussing the cliff hanger and how glad we were that we did not have to wait for days now to see how the adventure concludes (the option to watch the second part on another evening is available). To eat from a variation of informal eateries would have been available within the theatre area as well, with shared tables utilised to enjoy coffee and cake, pizza or fish and chips, and to escape the weather. Next to us, some well-prepared Austrians are concentrating on their Yatzy session.

It has been a fantastic theatre day in Hamburg’s central warehouse district – admitting that the fact that there is no third part is a relief. We are truly enchanted but tired.

Hogwarts House Pride Week in Hamburg – given the dates on the goodie back, likely to return next year

**** out of 5 stars

Harry Potter und das verwunschene Kind is the first non-English language production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and a two-part play written by Jack Thorne, based on the original story by JK Rowling, John Tiffany and Thorne.

From February 2023, Hamburg will stage a shortened version as already staged elsewhere (but London).

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