So, the script for J.K. Rowling’s play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, billed as the eighth Potter story, was released on July 31st. Naturally, I and the world and his dog rushed to pick up a copy. Here are my thoughts. I should point out that I have not seen the play, worse luck, and am going from the script alone. Note that there will be total and complete spoilers, which I will hide after the cut.
First, the non spoilery section. There was a lot I loved about it, and some things that didn’t work nearly so well for me. I loved that the same themes that pervaded the book series – love, friendship, family, loyalty – still form the core of Cursed Child. It was wonderful seeing how Harry, Ron and Hermione coped with adult life and parenthood (being an adult myself, it was especially fascinating.). The new characters, Scorpius and Albus and their friendship are completely adorable – Scorpius really does get all the best lines. And, naturally, it is simply wonderful to revisit the Wizarding World in any shape or form. Rowling’s world is utterly breathtaking. I really wish I could see how certain scenes played out on stage.
What I didn’t enjoy so much were certain plot points. I didn’t feel they gelled too well with what we know about the Wizarding World and the characters in it. Some character development points I didn’t feel worked too well in a play setting. They might have worked better for me in novel format with more space to expand and develop them. Also, while it’s not necessary to have devoured Pottermore, certain interactions do have much more meaning if you are aware of some of the character’s backstories.
All in all I enjoyed Cursed Child and gave it four stars out of five.
Now, onto the spoilery section.
As I said, love, friendship and loyalty remain at the core of this latest Harry Potter story, most notably, the friendship between Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy. Like Harry, Ron and Hermione, their bond makes them stronger and they achieve more together than they ever would apart. They are drawn together through their mutual struggle to live up to their famous fathers (or in Scorpius’s case, to live down the rumours of his being Voldemort’s son.). For both of them, Hogwarts is not the happy, welcoming home it was for Harry and his friends. This friendship is certainly the strongest part of the story and is beautifully written.
The character development points. While I thought it was appropriate and fitting that Cedric Diggory be the key to the whole thing, I was rather disturbed by the notion that Cedric, the good, decent Hufflepuff, in another reality would become a Death Eater and murderer after two humiliating experiences. Now, I’m not saying it’s impossible; maybe Scorpius and Albus’ actions were the pebbles that set off an avalanche, but I felt it needed to be explained far more, and the play format simply did not allow for that time and space.
Similarly, the Snape we meet in the alternate universe, a man who is at peace with himself and his role in life – he even smiles for Dumbledore’s sake! – is not one I would have expected to see. Again, I’m not saying it’s impossible, I just believe the development would have been better served in a different format with more time to expand it.
What I didn’t have a problem with was how our trio was portrayed as adults. I could totally buy that Harry was angry, upset and even quite vicious at some points given what he’s going through. Remember, too, that Harry did not have a positive father figure in his life growing up; all those who were in that role, even briefly, were taken from him or had to manipulate him for their own ends, however justified. It’s hardly surprising that Harry struggles to relate to Albus, who is a good deal more sensitive than Harry’s other two kids. Add to this his scar hurting for the first time in 22 years, and it’s not surprising he’s under a lot of pressure. I’m not excusing his lashing out at Professor McGonagall, Ginny and Draco, but I can understand it. Speaking of our favourite Headmistress, this is a time where familiarity with Pottermore could help. Knowing about Minerva’s short but tragic marriage which sadly didn’t result in kids makes his vicious barb of her not understanding because she has never been a parent hit that much harder.
I admit, I didn’t much care for the Back to the Future timetravel storyline. I felt it conflicted with what we know of time travel in the Wizarding World from Prisoner of Azkaban. Admittedly they did try to get around it by talking about Croaker’s Law which suggests that the furthest back a witch or wizard can travel in time without risking the time/space continuum is five hours, excluding the trio’s high jinx in book three from this. What I did love though was the acknowledgment of Neville’s role in Voldemort’s downfall. Despite Snape’s statement that Neville is an unimportant, insignificant wizard it’s his death in the alternate timeline that causes Harry’s attempt to bring about Voldemort’s downfall to fail.
The ending though was wonderful. We got to come full circle back to that night in Godric’s Hollow which started it all. And while Harry was forced to watch Voldemort murder his parents, he did so with his family, friends and loved ones at his side. Perfect.