London is the Mecca of all-things Harry Potter, but some of the Harry Potter themed activities, like the Studio Tours, can become quite pricey. However, there are loads of free and low-cost options to get the Harry Potter experience in London, including inexpensive ways to see the 9-time Olivier Winning stage show, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child!
My amazing British Bestie, Hannah, surprised me with highly coveted tickets to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child parts 1 AND 2 on the West End this past Saturday! To say I was ecstatic is probably the understatement of the year. This show is nearly impossible to get tickets to and has already been guaranteed an 11 year run on the West End after only its first year. The queue to get into the theatre on a show-day wraps around two city blocks! Not to mention, the entire production is shrouded in secrecy even though the play has been published for all to read. The few people I knew who had gotten the chance to see the show absolutely raved about its production quality, all while being annoyingly vague so as to #keepthesecret.
With tickets to the back-to-back presentations of Part 1 and 2, Hannah and I decided to have an entire Harry Potter themed day. And since we’re both strapped for cash, we decided to take advantage of the free Harry Potter sights around town.
Our first stop was to window-shop at the Primark clothing shop that just happened to have an entire side-store devoted to the franchise. This place had everything from replica robes to Harry Potter themed bedding and even house-themed underwear, yes underwear. And of course, what Harry Potter tour wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Platform 9 & 3/4 at King’s Cross Station? Here, people queue up–sometimes waiting hours!–just to have their picture taken in front of the cart posed going through the platform wall.
But the Harry Potter themed madness does not stop there. You can also a walk across the iconic Millennium Bridge that goes from Shakespeare’s Globe in Southwark to the base of St. Paul’s Cathedral; take a trip down the nondescript side alley that doubled as the exterior for the famed Diagon Alley; and, perhaps one of the best well-kept Potter secrets… visit the House of MinaLima in Soho that has original props from both the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beast film franchises. In this quirky, four-level shop, there are prints of pages from the Daily Prophet and the Quibbler, actual movie prop of the magical textbooks used during filming, and so much more magical artwork to view! All of which are totally F-R-E-E to do!
But the piece-de-resistance is the play itself. While tickets may seem extremely expensive, don’t despair! There are still affordable ways to see the show in the U.S. or the U.K. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child does a weekly lottery where tickets come available for a fraction of the price! There are also day-seating ticket options if you’re willing to sit outside the theatre box office before it opens on a first-come/first-serve basis. Lastly, there are almost always return tickets available at the box office from people unable to attend at the last minute. Granted, you can’t pick where you’ll sit with these options, but it will give you affordable options to watch the magic!
Let me go off on a tangent for just a moment to talk about the cast of extraordinarily talented actors that bring the new cast of characters to life and reinterpret some of everyone’s favorite… or maybe least favorite characters in new and innovative ways. Stepping into the roles of such world renown characters is no small feat, but these actors managed to keep the essence of certain roles while adding creative twists to make them their own.
What surprised me about the play was the physicality of it. While it is not at all a musical, music and movement play a large role in creating the atmosphere of the wizarding world on stage. The score was composed by the legendary Imogen Heap who managed to keep the whimsical tone of the Harry Potter soundtracks without all the pomp-and-circumstance of a massive orchestra. The orchestration, for the most part, is quite simple, with the exception of one song, which happened to be my favorite. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you which song it is, but it stood out with an intensity and beat all its own.
However, the GREATEST aspect of the play was by-far the production itself. As a movie and theatre nerd who has worked behind-the-scenes on film sets and college theatre productions, the set pieces, lighting design, and overall staging of this show was absolutely the work of genius. I kept trying to figure out how certain magical acts were carried out. Again, while I cannot get too specific, I can say that this show involves water, fire, flight, and even apparating! I don’t even begin to know how they managed to make characters apparate and disapparate right in front of my eyes! It was INSANE!
So, if you’re a die-hard Harry Potter fan, these are some of the off-the-beaten-track Potter-themed things to do and see while you’re in London that are loads of fun on a budget!
Until we meet again, this is Stephanie, signing off.