Book (Script?) Review: ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’
There’s something entertaining about all the online meltdowns following the release of ‘The Cursed Child’. People flipped out when they got home, opened their newly purchased hardcovers and discovered it wasn’t a new ‘Harry Potter’ book but the script from a theatrical production. Sorry folks, but if it was that bloody important to you, why didn’t you know in advance? It’s been made very clear, even Rowling made a point of mentioning it. If you were so invested in this publication you would have heard this before hand. And while we’re on the subject, why are you so offended that Harry is not the wizarding world’s answer to parenthood? The closest he had to a positive role model was an old dude who was going to sacrifice him.
That’s enough social commentary, on to the script at hand…
We pick up some 20 years after the events of ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’, with the original cast now seeing their kids off to Hogwarts. Albus Potter, Harry and Ginny’s second born, is boarding the Hogwarts Express for the first time, along with his cousin Rose Granger-Weasley. On the train he befriends Scorpius Malfoy, son of Draco. They bond over the shadows cast by their respective fathers, with Albus finding his acceptance into Hogwart’s society hindered when he is placed in Slytherin House.
Having gotten their hands on a Time-Turner the two attempt to go back in time to save the life of Cedric Diggory, a plan that causes ripples in their own time creating alternate versions of their own world. At the emotional core of the story is the relationship between Harry and Albus, the two struggling to find a connection as Albus struggles more and more with his life as a social outcast in contrast to his older brother’s easy journey through life.
From the outset we have an interesting story that deviates heavily from the sugar coated, fairy tail ending of the original series, one that has stakes are are inevitably higher than ever before as quite often in the story entire lives are erased. They don’t tie the time-travelling/causality story together especially well with the estranged father-son plot, but that stands well on its own, adding a very human dimension to the characters. Taking the plot in such a different direction separates this story from many other attempts to revisit popular franchises. Quite often such returns bank heavily on playing up fan favourite moments and characters without moving anything forward.
It’s also refreshing to see a group of characters who aren’t stand-ins for the original cast. Albus and Scorpius don’t have clear analogues in the original run of seven books, the former being a moody misanthrope and the latter being optimistic in the face of overwhelming personal loss. Harry, Hermione, Ron and Draco fall back into their familiar dynamic, but from an adult perspective. Although Ron and Draco are much the same, Harry and Hermione are tackling new responsibilities as a parent and the Minister of Magic respectively.
Although the characters are fresh, the story does rely on some fan service to stay engaged. Time travelling jaunts take in the Triwizard tournament, the Forbidden Forest, visits with Snape and Dumbledore and Godric’s Hollow. It’s something of a celebration of popular moments from the series. If, for some ghastly reason, this is the first ‘Harry Potter’ story you’ve been exposed to it’s going to be a confusing journey, but I doubt that’s going to be a problem for most people.
The biggest problem with the story is the forced return of Voldemort. He’s an overbearing presence in the story. Whilst it makes sense that such a dangerous figure in the wizard world would have a lasting impact, the writers almost seem afraid to introduce a completely unique villain. It has been 20 years, they don’t have to wheel out ol’ noseless to make an impact.
End of the day, if you miss the world of wizards and aren’t in a town with a production underway this is well worth grabbing a copy off. Between 7 books and 8 movies we’ve all got a pretty solid mental picture of what everything looks like so it doesn’t take much imagination to fill in the gaps between the dialogue and stage directions. We enjoyed it and you may as well.