Harry Potter; those two words alone have now become synonymous with a grand catalogue of superlatives, reaching across the divides of gender, age, ethnicity, class, and everything in between. I’ve delayed writing this review with a feeling akin to dread, mixed in with a splash of nervous excitement. The Harry Potter series means everything to me. It created the benchmarks of my adolescence, imparting into every year a fanatic anticipation for the next installment. So many memories, so many feelings. So much love. It is therefore understandable that a large proportion of the Harry Potter fandom, myself included, heard of the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play announcement with feelings of worry and dread. How can you possibly add to something which has been so perfect, so untouched, for so long? Why would you run the risk of tainting the golden hue surrounding the magical series?
Of course I was always going to have to experience this new project. Whilst I would love to be fortunate enough to see it as it was originally intended (on stage), like thousands of others I have had to make do with the written script version. After allowing my thoughts to mature, here are my conclusive opinions on the script only. This is NOT a review of the visual play, but a review of the script itself and how it reads.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts One and Two follows on from events within the Harry Potter series nineteen years later. The eponymous Harry Potter is now a grown man, now balancing fatherhood and his career within the Ministry of Magic. Yet whilst Harry is a main figure for a large proportion of this story, his son, Albus Severus Potter, is really what the script focuses upon. It is in no ways a spoiler to say that Albus and Harry do not have an easy relationship. Harry has his own troubles with his past, and Albus is consigned to forever being known as the son of the greatest wizard in the world, unable to escape from everything this brings. Albus finds comfort and friendship within a perhaps unlikely character, Scorpius Malfoy, the only child of Draco Malfoy. Together, this next generation of characters cause mayhem as they attempt to right what they perceive as wrongs from their parent’s past, struggling to find their own place within both home and larger life. This is probably as much as I can briefly say without containing spoilers. The next sections of this review will also be spoiler free.
Two of the main issues I encountered with The Cursed Child were both the plot line and the writing style. Not only was the plot pretty ludicrous and ridiculous, but the writing style seemed unauthentic and, as many people have rightly pointed out, as if it has been written as a piece of fan fiction. The plot did not feel original, or as if it was bringing anything new to the Harry Potter world. Although this is based upon an original new story by J. K. Rowling, the script was actually written by playwright Jack Throne (I believe). As I was reading it, I very much felt that the writers were jitching a ride upon Rowling’s world, and everything she had already created in the original series. I did not feel that the story really added anything new or exciting, but instead revisited everything we have already experienced, with the addition of major plot holes. The actual events that take place within this play seem so unlikely and hard to believe, even for a series about magical wizards and witches!
There is a very privileged place in my heart for Hogwarts. I have always felt that it is a vibrant character in its own right, and Rowling’s personification of the school truly was (excuse the pun), completely magical. Yet this script seemed completely devoid of this crucial character, and the personality Rowling imparting into this. It was an element I really lamented throughout my whole reading experience. Similarly, I did not feel there was any great characterisation even for the main protagonists of the story. Obviously plays are never going to be able to establish the same in depth characters and prose that novels are capable of. A script, by its very nature, is dependent on the visual, and for this reason I do not feel that the script should ever really have been released, or at least not so early. There was nowhere near enough personality or characterisation within the script itself, with the focus seeming entirely on a quick paced, fast changing plot, as opposed to actually presenting and developing both new and old characters. Whilst this fast paced approach would certainly work upon the stage, as something which is being solely being read, this visual method will never completely work. Just as Shakespeare’s works really need to be seen to truly appreciate his wit and genius as originally intended, I feel this play also needs to be seen to be judged more fairly.
Many people online have stated how our favourite characters have now been turned into caricatures of themselves, and I would agree with this statement. Ron in particular seems to have merged into the comedic role which Fred and George gave to the stories. I also was infuriated by Ginny. I felt she had none of the spark that we have seen before, and was about as interesting as a wet towel. In fact, none of the original characters from the Harry Potter series seemed to have much spark about them, and I was left feeling a great sadness that this is what they have been reduced to.
What I did enjoy in the script was the storyline between Albus and Scorpius. It was very reminiscent for me in the way that Harry, Ron and Hermoine all became such close knit friends despite fame, a slightly shabby family, or muggle parents. These two boys send a great message to younger readers that it does not matter who someone is or what they are known for; they are still human and just as much in need of friendship as anyone else. This is certainly a great lesson that should be taught worldwide. Whilst we did not have much individual character development to perhaps set up the initial friendship dynamics, we could still get a sense of the bond they form and how they successful bring out elements from within each other.
I don’t think that this script was completely horrendous. Whilst it might be lacking in substance, it was a quick, very easy read. I feel the main disappointment for this book was that it did not read as a continuation of Rowland’s world. What ensured the success of the Harry Potter books was the way in which Rowland wrote, from the plot, to the characters, the dialogue and the emotions – even the basic settings and scenes. It was her prose, so approachable for both adults and children alike, that stole our hearts and imaginations. For me, reading anything from the Harry Potter world is like slipping on a pair of comfy, well used slippers; you know what you are going to get whilst still being completely surprised and attacked emotionally. It was clear with this script that it was not the writing of J.K. Rowling, and as such it did largely read as a watery imitation of the world we are so invested in. Despite the quite negative experience of this play as something to be read, I do think that this play would be breathtaking and completely workable when visualised on a stage as originally intended. Whist the plot may seem dubious upon reading, I really feel that it will allow for stunning special effects and visual tricks to keep you gripped to the edge of you seat. I still am extremely excited to witness this myself, and would recommend anyone who is able to hold off on reading the script until they can actually witness the magic in person.
Publisher: Little Brown