Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts I & II
Author: J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, & Jack Thorne
Published: July 2016
Genre: Fantasy, Play
Rating: 2 Stars
Cover: It’s okay
Nineteen years after the Battle of Hogwarts…
It was always difficult being Harry Potter, and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and a father of three school-age children.
While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: Sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.
Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a new play by Jack Thorne. It is the eighth Harry Potter story and the first to be officially presented on stage. This special rehearsal edition of the script brings the continued journey of Harry Potter and his friends and family to readers everywhere immediately following the play’s world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.
Harry: I’ve never asked you how you felt about me naming him after you, have I?
Dumbledore: Candidly, Harry, it seemed a great weight to place upon the poor boy.
Before I dove into this book, I felt I had to mentally prepare myself for the different formatted storytelling of the characters I’ve loved the majority of my life. This is not a book, but a play; therefore it should have different expectations. Even with this in mind, I felt the execution was less than expected. It felt like the writer didn’t know whether they were writing a play or a novel, often being excessively descriptive in the stage directions or using unnecessary details, such as the specific number a character dialed in the telephone booth entrance to the Ministry of Magic. An audience member is not going to be able to see what number is being dialed. It was a little confusing to keep going back and forth between mindsets – is this a script or a novel?
First, let me give you a quick overview of the plot in non-spoilery fashion. Harry and Ginny’s son, Albus, and Draco’s son, Scorpius, become friends over their societal outcast—Albus’s being self-inflicted because of his apparent hatred of his relation to his father, and Scorpius because of persistent rumors that his father and mother used a special Time Turner to go back in time, resulting in Scorpius being Voldemort’s heir. For some reason, Albus becomes obsessed with Cedric Diggory’s death, and ropes Scorpius into running away from school in order to find this alleged special Time Turner, go back in time to save Cedric, and alter time, as well as Harry’s fame. They are encouraged and accompanied by Cedric’s cousin, Delphi.
The script starts off where the 7th book ended, the next generation of Potter’s, Wesley’s, and Malfoy’s boarding the Hogwarts train. However, we barely get to see Hogwarts, which was a surprise to me. For the first 20-ish% of the book, the new characters are being introduced in quick glimpses, flashing through years at a neck breaking speed without giving much of an in depth look at characters’ lives. This whole beginning was just a fast paced view of Albus getting moodier and more self-centered over the course of four years. When the pacing does slow down, we are then thrown back and forth in time without a moment to breathe. It was hard to get connected. On top of that, the dialogue is not natural and often awkward. I cringed several times when characters spoke to each other, particularly when Albus and Scorpius interact with the trolley lady on the train to Hogwarts. You know, the one that comes around and sells sweets? Apparently she is nuts. I would like to scrub that scene from my cranium.
My biggest complaint was the lack of depth to the characters. I’m not just talking about the fast forward introduction to the new ones, but also the characters that are iconic to the Harry Potter industry. Ginny’s character was completely flat and uninteresting (Flashback to the movies?), Ron is constantly trying to make awkward jokes and works at the Joke Shop now (What happened to George? I thought Ron was an Auror?), and Hermione’s intelligence isn’t anything special. Draco’s character was the only that seemed relatively close to what we would expect, and he brought some of those nostalgic feelings back. Three cheers for Draco! Oh, and of course we have a Dumbledore cameo. He appears through various picture frames as a painting in two scenes. I feel that his addition is completely unnecessary; his scenes could be cut out of the play completely and make no difference. The first scene in which he makes an appearance, he offers Harry advice that is promptly ignored, instead causing Harry to respond in the opposite direction. In the second, Dumbledore’s lines are extremely uncharacteristic and he proceeds to make an awkward and emotional apology to Harry for the way he’s treated him over the years. It feels that Dumbledore’s role was specifically to give fans some closure they felt they deserved, though uncharacteristic. This is completely unnecessary because we often don’t get closure in our real lives.
Hands down, beyond a doubt, Scorpius is by far the best character. His wit cuts through the awkward dialogue and brings humor to the angsty characters. He responds to situations with normal emotions and questions that one would expect. He is loyal, even when his best friend is caught up in his get-back-at-his-dad-for-being-famous schemes. He kept me going. *fist pump for the witty, strange Scorpius*
Some of the scenes were inconsistent with things readers know to be true of the Wizarding World. On many occasions, characters would come and go from Hogwarts grounds without any dancing around security spells. Harry, Ginny, Ron, Hermione, and Draco all come through Professor McGonagall’s chimney by Flu Powder and nothing is said about it other than Professor McGonagall’s complaint about the carpet getting dirty. Is anyone allowed to come onto school grounds now? Did security become lax after the Battle of Hogwarts? Isn’t this a little overzealous? One of the first things the new trio does in their vengeance scheme is use Polyjuice Potion to transform into Ministry of Magic employees AKA the parents. Did the author(s) forget that Polyjuice Potion takes a month to make? There is no way they could’ve whipped it up so fast! Apparently all Wizarding World rules are out the window though, since Time Turners play such a huge role in the story, even though they were all destroyed in the Battle of Ministries in the 5th book. However, these are special Time Turners that break all the rules because they are able to go back years instead of being limited to an hour or so. Who would’ve thought? To top it off, during one of their leaps through time in attempt to save Cedric, the three appear in the maze portion of the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Somehow they are able to navigate the twists and enchantments of the maze, while remaining completely unseen by the scorekeepers, announcer, and crowds. There are a lot of things that don’t quite connect throughout.
In an attempt to be spoiler-free, I have not talked about Delphi in depth, nor the big plot twists in the second half of the book. Please comment if you’ve read this so that we can talk about these things!
The suspension of belief required during this read is exceptional and the dialogue cringe-worthy. The most redeeming quality of The Cursed Child is the humor Scorpius and Draco bring to the table. If you are hoping to reconnect with the story and the familiar characters, you may be left wanting more.