Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, I’m sure, is a very fun play to see.
The script (not a novel, as some Harry Potter fans were disappointed to find out) make it very clear that there would be spectacular effects, lavish sets, and dialogue that would kill in a theater space. If I’m lucky enough to go to London and see it, I’m sure I will laugh, cry, and cheer (way more than I should) throughout the whole performance. I would probably even see it again once the production inevitably comes across the pond to Broadway. I might even want to see it a third time. I would definitely recommend it to my Mom.
That said, I’m not here to review a production of the play. I’m solely responsible for the words on the page, and with regards to these, I am less likely to believe that I would want to revisit them time and time again.
Written by John Tiffany & Jack Thorne (J.K. Rowling was only involved in coming up with the story, not the actual written word), we start out right where we left off at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Harry Potter is sending his poorly named child Albus Severus off to his first year at Hogwarts and Albus, already acting like his father, is complaining. On the train ride, Albus encounters Scorpius Malfoy, son of Draco, and right from the start, it is clear they are to become best friends. The script skims through Albus’ first four years at Hogwarts and we learn that being the son of the most famous wizard in the world has its drawbacks. Albus is sorted into Slytherin House (along with Scorpius), and also unlike his father, is not adept in magic or playing Quidditch. Albus is viewed, by others and himself, as a let down in comparison to his father. By year four, Albus and Scorpius (who is rumored to actually be the son of Voldermort) are a pair of outcasts who hardly want anything to do with the other students, and the feeling is mutual. Even Harry Potter is having trouble dealing with his angst-filled son.
This simple setup would be great fodder for a strong character driven story about accepting others and accepting who you are, but herein lies one of the problems of The Cursed Child: it doesn’t know when to leave well enough alone. One of the common threads of criticism for this new story is that it feels a bit too much like fan fiction, and everyone who has said this is pretty justified in doing so. It often feel like the writers wanted to satisfy fans so much, that they threw in everything but the kitchen sink. In the end, this creates a bloated story where we get to see some interesting ideas play out, but never to the full extent they deserve. Even worse, with so much content, the story falls victim to plot holes and a surprising amount of exposition.
This is truly disappointing because the story tries to tackle some more mature themes that hadn’t been tackled with in the original novels. Now that the original characters are adults, the story is able to tackle ideas like parenting (mostly paternity), marriage, survivor’s guilt, and fate vs. free will. However, since all the original characters are stuffed into the book, we are left with only small glimpses at what is going on in their adult lives (I believe Ginny may only say about 10 lines throughout the play, and that feels generous). In the end, the only one of these themes we get to fully experience is Harry’s struggle with fatherhood, and even that wears thin by the final lines.
Lucky for this story, it is the newer characters who ably take center stage (literally and figuratively), and take us through the story. While their story can get convoluted (a main plot element is time travel and the butterfly effect), Albus and Scorpius’ emotional journey is strong enough to stand up against the original trio of friends without seeming too much like a retread of old material. Other new characters are scattered about through the story including Rose Granger-Weasley, popular daughter of Ron and Hermione, and Delphi Diggory, cousin of the deceased Cedric Diggory. Though Delphi has some interesting developments later in the story, it is the two main characters who are the most interesting, and for the most part, hold the entire story on their shoulders.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is by no means a bad story, it is just nothing like any of us were expecting. The key elements of J.K. Rowling’s original novels were its creativity, its thoughtful characters, and the in-depth view we were given into the wizarding world. Though to some extent we get that in this play, it seems secondhand. We aren’t getting Rowling’s voice, we are getting someone who has studied Rowling’s voice. The Polyjuice Potion version of Rowling. While I’m sure the play’s spectacular nature in production will alleviate this problem, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child ends up feeling like a high school reunion: it was nice to see everyone again, but for sure, this isn’t like the good ol’ days.
Have you read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child? What did you make of it? Let us know in the comments section below or send us a Tweet!