Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne, John Tiffany and J.K. Rowling

Overall Rating: ★★★☆          Difficulty Rating: ★☆☆

   Just when you thought the wizarding world of Harry Potter could expand no further, J.K. Rowling - who brought us Pottermore and Fantastic Beasts - worked her magic yet again and presented us with a play!

   Harry Potter and the Cursed Child picks up where the series left off in the last novel when it fast-forwards 19 years ahead to grown-up Harry and his friends taking their children to the Hogwarts Express. I have to say, the beginning was certainly heart warming because it takes you right back to the first book when Harry and Ron boarded the Hogwarts-bound train for the first time. Harry even tells his youngest son, Albus, "Best do it at a run if you're nervous," which is exactly what Ron's mother, Molly, said to him when he had to run at the wall between platforms nine and ten. Yes, the nostalgia will hit you as hard as a stupefy spell.

   The play tells of the magical mischief the next generation of wizards get into during their first years of Hogwarts. The plot mainly centres around Albus Severus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy, who befriend each other on the train, much to Rose Granger-Weasley's distaste. Albus feels weighed down by the great expectations set by his father, the infamous Harry Potter A.KA: 'The Boy Who Lived.' He defeated Voldemort - how could he possibly live up to that?

   As one of Albus' greatest fears became a reality and he is sorted into the Slytherin house, he - along with Scorpius became outcasts and fell victim to years of bullying. It is therefore no surprise that, when an opportunity arises to prove themselves to everyone, they seize it with wands at the ready. They will travel in time to save the life of an innocent, one of the many who died for 'The Boy Who Lived.'

   I have yet to witness the actual play for myself and, seeing as it is fully booked for at least the whole year, it might be a while before I do! (If anyone happens to locate an illegal time-turner, please send it my way. I promise I won't alert the ministry.) It took me only one day to finish reading the entire script and, honestly, I wonder how different it would have been if J.K. Rowling had written it alone. Sometimes whilst I was reading it, it felt like I was reading a bad fan fiction. On the other hand, I am taking into consideration the form and would like to think that I would not be getting this vibe if it was written as a novel like the other books.

   My main issue with this story is the terrible inconsistency with the characters. Let us begin with the hero himself: Harry Potter, who becomes deeply concerned about his son so threatens - yes, threatens - Professor McGonagall if she does not spy on Albus using the Marauders Map.

"Minerva - you don't have children - you don't understand. The map will reveal to you where my son is at all times - I expect you to have it. And, if I hear you don't - then I will come down on this school as hard as I can - using the full force of the ministry." - Harry Potter

First of all, Harry never has and never would address his former professor (now headmistress of Hogwarts) as Minerva. It also seems extremely out of character to threaten this woman, who looked out for him all those years, with ministry action let alone using the fact that she's never had children of her own against her. It was scenes like this that chilled my muggle heart. Just kidding. I'm not a muggle.

   Another scathing example of character inconsistency lies in an alternate reality where Hermione Granger is a Hogwarts professor rather than Minister of Magic and she is utterly cruel. You read right - Hermione and cruel in the same sentence. At one point, she tells Albus:

"Just keep quiet Potter, otherwise you'll lose what limited popularity you already have." - Hermione Granger.

Not only is she heartlessly calling out a student for being lonely but also being hostile to one of the children of her own best friend. Granted, people can change over years but the reasons behind this substantial development are questionable.

   Without revealing too much, it is suggested in the play that Voldemort has a child. That statement alone is worthy of raising more than a few brows. The so-called 'Dark Lord' repelled love. It was the very thing that cursed him. The previous books conveyed that Voldemort did not have a single affectionate bone in his body. It never once struck me that such a villain, who repeatedly split his soul, could be capable of producing a child. (Where did he even find the time to do it? I would have thought everyone trying to kill him kept him pretty occupied.)

   A notable aspect of characterisation was Harry's pain; that was one thing at least that remained consistent with the books. He is scarred both mentally and physically and that is clearly communicated through his dialogue in the script as he is constantly bringing up his past. This is reflected in his son, Albus, who always manages to navigate conversations back to himself and his family struggles. However, I would have liked to have seen more of Albus' siblings, James and Lily as well as Ron and Hermione's other child, Hugo.

    A scene that did stick in my head, unfortunately, was one where Albus was disguised as his uncle Ron. Desperate to keep up his polyjuice potion induced facade, he resorted to romantically kissing, Hermione, his aunt, repeatedly. Cringe. This scene might have been easier to laugh at (or, in my case as I'm reading, expelling more air from my nose than usual) if Albus stared at her in a comedic wide-eyed way before awkwardly leaning in for a more subtle cheek kiss.

   A personal highlight of mine was a scene that took place towards the end of the play in Godric's Hollow when Harry relived the murder of his parents. It was very emotionally climatic and certainly stayed with me long after I put down the book. I can visualise the pain on the characters' faces as the flashes of green light follow the screams for mercy. There is a lot of potential for this scene and one can only hope that the actual performance exceeds expectation.

   Nonetheless, I did enjoy reading this script and I do understand I will not experience the story properly until I go to see the play and witness for myself how the characters are portrayed onstage and how the scenes are set. I am curious to see how convincing the transitions and spells appear to the audience. I will certainly write a follow up review of the performance.

No comments