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If there was one show that dominated news coverage throughout 2016 it was the London premiere of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child which officially opened at the Palace Theatre in June. Selling out tickets over a year in advance the show became London's genuine 'hot ticket' with fans of the original novels and theatre fans alike bursting at the seams to find out what happened next to Harry, Ron and Hermione in J.K Rowling's magical world of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
The cast of the production have since become stars, attracting attention from new and diverse audiences who have been drawn to the show unlike any other. With such a large and experienced company, the cast of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child impressed critics and fans from all around the world.
“I'm like a secret agent – the secret agent of theatre” laughs Anthony Boyle speaking to the press ahead of the Critics' Circle Awards 2016 where he has won the Jack Tinker Award for Best Newcomer. “It's quite nice to walk about Soho and not get recognised, unlike Noma, or Sam – people scream at him.”
Anthony may not be recognisable out of his costume and wig that helps him transform into Scorpius Malfoy, but he is certainly a name to watch having been awarded this prestigious award for his first West End role. “It's strange – amazing you know?” he comments. “These critics, reading their reviews of plays and to follow in so many people's footsteps...I remember reading the list and thinking – f*ck – that's incredible that I'm following in their footsteps, it's a real honour to be recognised.”
Eight months after opening the play continues to be the hottest ticket in town, and with eyes on a Broadway production in 2018 the franchise certainly shows no signs of slowing down.
“It's been an amazing learning curve, I've learnt so much from other members of the cast, the creative team, so much about myself” Boyle shares. “I came straight from drama school, it's been a real whirlwind, it's been incredible and eye opening experience as to how the world works. We were in rehearsals and John Tiffany would say to Sam and I, get ready because your lives are about to change. We didn't really know what to expect.”
The mental challenge of taking part in such an immense and international title has certainly not been lost on Boyle and he explained how he copes with the pressures of performing night after night to fans, most of which are seeing the story unfold for the very first time.
“You really just have to condition yourself mentally and physically to do such a long run” he explains. “I'm like Hercules right now. Emotionally too, I lose my mum very early on in the play so there are a lot of emotional moments that I have to go into, it's quite hard to keep that afloat for eight months, you're constantly trying to find different ways to access that emotion. The longest run I had ever done before was seven days in a community centre – a one man show. It's been good to have older cast members who have done this before, how to keep the emotion alive eight months in. They're really helped me and taught me to approach it from different angles.”
The experience of reading the script for the first time, months before audiences would come to see the show in previews must have been an overwhelming experience for any Harry Potter fan, and with so much security and #KeepTheSecrets working overdrive, Boyle explains how he first felt when discovering both his character and story.
“I was a massive fan. My father read the books to me and my brother when we were younger. The first time I read the script I was in a locked room, there was a security guard and another boy who was reading for Scorpius as well. Up until that point we were only told we were reading for 'lead boy'. We got the full script – I'm very dyslexic, we got three hours to read two scripts. It was completely not what I was expecting – I thought it was going to be about Sirius Black and I would be playing a young Sirius. Then I thought 'who is this dude, Scorpius Malfoy?'. He is a comedic character at the start, a bit of a clown. The more I got the more emotionally involved I got with him and his story, the more I turned the page the more I felt the love for him – I had a real emotional connection immediately to the script when first reading it.”
The pressure mounted for Boyle as the cast and crew assembled for the first read through of the entire script.
“When we read it for the first time and before I said my first line, there was so many people in the room my heart was going...I thought God, I hope this is going to be good – I hope people don't think I'm shit. We did the first scene and I got a laugh and I thought good – I can carry on!”
Following Boyle's award success, which also saw John Tiffany take home the award for Best Director for the play and Christine Jones for Best Designer, it's hard to believe that the hype around the production can grow any further. With such a demand for tickets Boyle laughs that he's become a victim of his own success and is constantly hounded for tickets.
“Every day I get 100 people asking for tickets. My Dad will ring me and tell me that people have been asking him in the street - people are asking me all the time...”
Anthony Boyle continues in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Palace Theatre.