I’ve only gone and bloody caught up on the Harry Potter universe! Since finishing reading the books for the first time last year, I’ve seen Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them (LOVED IT!) and read the script of The Cursed Child. The pacing of the story feels a little off and there are some messy plot mechanics, but this was made up for by the introduction of excellent new characters and some amazing throwbacks to the books. But why are we visiting the Wizarding world again? At the end of scene two an adult Ginny is talking about her youngest son and asks her husband: “Harry… He’ll be alright, won’t he?” He most definitely will not be alright Ginny, and it’s because of that we have this treat of a play to entertain ourselves with!
WARNING! Spoilers abound throughout the rest of this review!
The play stars Harry’s son Albus Severus Potter (possibly the least attractive name I’ve ever heard) and deals with his own adventures in Hogwarts and his use of a Time Turner that allows him to go back in time and set things right… Things including the death of one of my most beloved characters, Cedric Diggory. There are also ominous dream sequences, rumours of Voldemort being a baby daddy, and Harry’s scar hurts again. Go figure.
It didn’t take me long to warm up to new characters like Albus and Scorpius Malfoy, Draco’s son (with a name like that, Draco is clearly hoping Scorpius will become a super villain when he’s older.) Bad names aside, the dynamic between the two characters is absolutely lovely and one of my favourite friendships I’ve seen throughout the entire series. They click together more naturally than Harry & Ron or Hermione ever did and have a really likable banter between the two of them. Their friendship is one of the best things about the play, and Scorpius in particular is a sympathetic and kind character who has a sense of sincerity similar to Luna Lovegood or Neville. So he’s nothing like his dad, basically.
Scorpius: “All I ever wanted to do was go to Hogwarts and have a mate to get up to mayhem with. Just like Harry Potter. And I got his son. How crazily fortunate is that?”
One of the most interesting things to see in The Cursed Child was how Albus coped with the pressure of being the son of Harry Potter. He hates the responsibility of it and the weight it gives him to be equally impressive, and I think that’s actually the most realistic outcome of Harry having a son we could have seen.
One of the worst things about the play, however? Harry was still so unlikable. No wonder his son can’t stand him. Rowling finally gave us a likable protagonist in the form of Albus Potter, but Harry is still there being more of a dick than he ever was in the books. At one point, he tells Albus he wishes he wasn’t his son. If I could have I’d have reached in to the pages and given Harry a whack on the back of the head. To make things worse, he later goes on to separate Albus from his best (and only) friend, due to fears Scorpius is the son of Voldemort and essentially a bad influence. Oh, Harry man, handle these situations better please!
As soon as time turners were mentioned and the prospect of saving Cedric Diggory was dangled in front of me, I let out an internal ‘YAAAASSSS!’ Going in to detail about a plan to return to the Triwizard Tournament and save Cedric felt so exciting and was almost like reading one of the books all over again. I loved the fact Cedric’s death was such a huge plot point in the play, as his death was one of the moments that hit me the hardest when reading the books. (OK, he didn’t really end up coming back, but I can live with it)
Another new character, Delphi, is initially introduced as Amos Diggory’s niece. But there’s something not quite right, and the second she mentioned being ill when she was younger, I wrote in my notepad: Is Delphi Voldemort’s daughter? CALLED IT!! It was obvious that the identity of the child would be a twist, and there weren’t many other serious contenders for the title to be honest. Got to say, the mental image of pale little skeleton Voldy boning Bellatrix LeStrange is one I don’t want to dwell on. Delphi reveals her true identity and becomes a pretty lacklustre villain. She never really feels scary, but nonetheless it’s seriously epic when she is defeated by the whole of the core cast working together.
I spent most of the last parts of the play just waiting (and hoping) for Voldemort to come back, but now I’m finished I’m actually glad he never properly ‘returned’ as it means the original ending of the books still feels like the end of Voldemort and doesn’t cheapen the final fight in any way.
The use of time travel meant we got to see plenty of old characters make cameo appearances – Neville Longbottom shows his face (insert internal squeal here) and Dolores Umbridge makes an appearance, which made me cheer. Appearances of Snape and Dumbledore were probably supposed to be more exciting than I found them, I admit I kind of drifted through these scenes knowing that nothing would happen in them would be permanent. It all felt a bit farfetched that little things like embarrassing Cedric in the past would lead to a future with Harry dead and Voldemort Day. At times it felt like I was reading a fan-fiction, albeit a very good one. Things also started to feel rushed around here, though I think that’s part of the problem you get when you’re just reading a script, so it may well be that seeing the play performed live fixes this issue.
Time travel itself, despite being a fascinating concept, can often feel very messy and The Cursed Child is no exception. What are the rules to time travel in this universe, exactly? I much prefer the way the TV series LOST handled it, with the basic rule being: Whatever happened, happened. No matter what you went back and did, that was always what happened in history and nothing changed. It kept things from getting too complicated and was interesting to see. Harry Potter’s universe is obviously different, but I’m unclear on why, when Delphi goes back in time, things aren’t immediately changed in the present as soon as she activates the time turner. They are ‘waiting’ in the present for her or Albus to change things in the past, and it just all feels a bit complicated and incoherent. Anybody else feel the time travel was a bit messy?
Despite the problems, when I was reading the script I was constantly wondering how certain things are handled on stage. Things like Polyjuice Potion, the dream sequences, and the elaborate magic spells. If it’s done well I imagine it’s incredibly impressive. Crossing all my fingers that I’ll win Friday Forty tickets one week and get to see the play myself!
Overall I never felt bored reading the play. It was great to have a relatively even mix of scenes with new characters contrasted with the adult versions of the established cast. My perceptions on existing characters didn’t really change and nothing all too exciting happened with them, but I was surprised at how much I warmed to the new characters in such a short space of time. I actually cared more about what happened to the younger characters than the parents. It was great to visit Hogwarts again, and it certainly made me want to take the jump and buy tickets to see the play in December 2032 or whenever the next available tickets are now.
Questions for those of you who have only read the play:
- What did you like/not like?
- What would you have done differently?
- Would you still like to see more of Harry Potter, or do you think his story should be done now?
And for those of you who have seen the play performed, I am dying to know:
- Are things like spells and polyjuice potion handled well?
- Does the play feel rushed at points, like the script did?
- How did you find the performances of the actors?