Harry Potter casts another spell with eight gongs at theatre awards

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'Harry Potter & The Cursed Child' - Press Preview - Backstage

Harry Potter And The Cursed Child has swept up at a prestigious theatre awards, winning eight categories including best new play.

The spell-binding production, nominated for 11 gongs, was the big winner at the 17th annual WhatsOnStage Awards which are voted for by theatregoers.

Jamie Parker, who plays Harry in the sequel to JK Rowling's books, beat veteran stars including Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Kenneth Branagh and Ralph Fiennes to be named best actor in a play.

The award for best actress in a play went to Billie Piper for her critically acclaimed performance in Yerma at the Young Vic.

Parker, 37, said he was "quivering" after finding out he had beaten some of theatre's biggest stars to the top spot.

"This is not my home territory, awards shows - and I've never accepted one before so I've no idea what I said," he told the Press Association.

"You don't get the luxury of hiding behind someone else's words, or somebody's persona."

The awards, hosted by comedian and actor Vikki Stone and West End star Simon Lipkin, took place at the Prince of Wales Theatre in central London.

Co-written by Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, who was named best director, The Cursed Child was also recognised for best set design, best lighting design and best video design.

Noma Dumezweni, who plays Hermione, and Anthony Boyle, who plays Scorpius Malfoy, won best supporting actress in a play and best supporting actor respectively.

Parker said The Cursed Child was "a very fitting conclusion" and "very vital myth" amid turbulent political times in the UK and abroad.

He said: "It is to do with letting destructive and traumatising and regressive parts of ourselves die so that we can re-emerge in a more evolved and more mature state - I think we badly need that at the moment.

"It's the audience that give us all hope that it doesn't matter how dark things get at the moment, that there are hundreds of millions of people out there across the world who are determined to keep that spirit alive."

Half A Sixpence was the most successful musical winning three awards including best choreography - but lost out to School Of Rock in the best new musical category.

Cameron Mackintosh was also recognised for his contribution to the industry with a lifetime achievement award, as he marks 50 years in the business.