Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Author: Jack Thorne
Published: July 31, 2016
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Quick Synopsis: Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016. 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 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. (Goodreads)
My Review: Hey, all! t’s been a hot minute since I posted because I’ve been on vacation, but I’m back and have plenty of post ideas for the coming weeks. Of course, I did’t feel like I could think about doing any of those other posts until I wrote this review. I went to the midnight release for The Cursed Child which was so much fun! It felt good to see the HP community come together for the first book party since Deathly Hallows nine years ago. I read the script in a single sitting on the release day while my family drove to Disneyland, and I may have embarrassed myself by crying a couple times in the car ha. Ever since, I’ve been trying to collect all of my thoughts and come to terms with exactly how I feel about this story. I have some very mixed emotions, let me tell you. Because I have so many feelings and want to avoid being a jumbled mess, I’m going to break this review up into sections where I talk about different aspects of the play.
*Note: In case you missed the title, this review will contain spoilers. Read at your own risk.
– W R I T I N G –
First and foremost, let’s address something that I think people need to go into the play knowing right off the bat. The Cursed Child script was not written by J.K. Rowling. No, I did not know this until right before I read it. I think I was getting it confused with the Fantastic Beasts film (which Jo did write). Jo okay-ed this script. Nothing more. And you know what? It’s pretty damn obvious that it wasn’t her creation. By this I mean that the writing was so clearly not Jo’s that it felt somewhat disconnected from the original series. There were words and phrases and overall lines that I know Jo would never write. Particularly, some of the nicknames (i.e. “Skinny Ginny”) and other little details just felt off. This aspect of the play bleeds into the plot and characters, but looking at the writing by itself, some of the original familiarity was not there. There were most definitely some parts that had me laughing as well as crying, but it felt like my emotions were directed at a particularly good fanfiction that I had stayed up until 3AM reading, not something I’m supposed to consider canon in the HP universe.
– P L O T –
Okay, this is where things really get interesting and the spoilers will be heavy. The plot of this play was…not good. There, I said it. I don’t like time travel plots to begin with, so having this be centered on the time turner brought it down a notch from the start for me. It’s a particularly weak plot device in this case because it seemed like it was only used so that we could see some of the “old favorite” characters such as Snape and Cedric and because it contradicts canon from the original series (i.e. all of the time turners being destroyed after OotP). Additionally, of all the characters that could have been the center of this adventure, Cedric was one I couldn’t care less about. His death is in the past. I’m over it. Do something else. Perhaps if it was someone more interesting or someone we know less about, I would have found the mission that Albus insists upon more exciting. It was just so easy to have Amos come to Harry with complaints rather than have Albus or Scorpius discover, say, Regulus Black’s history, and try to bring him back instead. I mean, no matter which character it was, I probably would not have been a big fan of the idea in general, but Cedric? Come on.
On that same note, I found it pretty hard to believe that Cedric would’ve decided to become a Death Eater just because he was humiliated in the Triwizard Tournament. I know one thing can lead to another and who are we to decide how a change in time will affect anything, but that seemed extreme. And probably the most fanfiction-y, eye-rolling reveal was Delphi apparently being the lovechild of Voldemort and Bellatrix. Yikes! I just don’t believe Voldemort would ever have gotten close to another person in that way, regardless of the intentions behind the action. I mean, my friend once dressed up as a hypothetical version of this lovechild for a Harry Potter party, but it was all for jokes. And I know people shipped Bellamort back in the day, but again, I don’t think anyone believed it would/did happen. This plot line was so incredibly ridiculous. I read the spoiler about this by accident but thought there was no way for it to be true. Boy was I surprised to find I was wrong. Honestly, I could’ve done without Delphi’s character altogether. Just like I could’ve done without a Snape appearance. Wow, another person trying to shove Snape’s “heroism” down our throats. No thanks.
Okay, okay. Things I did like: The interactions between Harry and Dumbledore. One of their scenes together actually did make me tear up because it felt the most like something that would be in the original books. For a moment, I was brought back to that. Here’s the quote that brought on the tears:
DUMBLEDORE: Harry, there is never a perfect answer in this messy, emotional world. Perfection is beyond the reach of humankind, beyond the reach of magic. In every shining moment of happiness is that drop of poison: the knowledge that pain will come again. Be honest to those you love, show your pain. To suffer is as human as to breathe (258).
The entire conversation they have before and after this is lovely too. Another aspect that I got emotional about what Albus becoming aware of Harry’s past and then telling Harry about how he could see the love that his parents had for him. The relationship between Harry and Albus in general was, at times, emotional while at other times being almost unbelievable. I’ll get into that more when I talk characters. The ending of this play was beautiful, and I loved seeing the trio together again. Harry’s struggles with fatherhood and with his past were done well and contributed nicely to the play.
– C H A R A C T E R S –
This is the aspect of the play I go back and forth with the most. I thought the characters really flip flopped between being in character and being totally out of character. I don’t know if it’s because they’re all so much older and I just wasn’t used to that or if Thorne was just inconsistent in writing them. Harry…Oh, Harry, Harry, Harry. Sometimes I thought he was in character, like when he was struggling with his past or talking to Ginny, Ron, and Hermione, but other times I just felt he was so far removed from the Harry I know and love from the original series. Maybe I just don’t like certain character portrayals because they weren’t exactly what I hoped to see. I had all these vivid ideas about how I pictured the Potter family to behave together, and it was nothing like what we got. Maybe it’s that I didn’t imagine Albus to be the way he was or I imagined them more happy and joking. I don’t think I’m an idealist, but I definitely thought the Potter house would have been a fun, warm, inviting place to be. Of course there would be hardships and fights, but not to the extent that we got. And it kills me to see Ginny get another bland portrayal. I’m starting to think only Jo
and fanfiction writers can write her well.
Ron was funny and, contrary to popular opinion, I actually liked his portrayal. Draco’s was pretty okay. I don’t think him and Harry would have been friends, but I like the idea of his redemption, and I appreciated that aspect. As for the stars of the play, I think I stand with everyone else on Scorpius. I absolutely adored him and found his character to be the light in this play. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for Albus. While I understand his struggles as being a middle child whose father is The Boy Who Lived, I found him immature and annoying most of the time, particularly when Harry tried to give him the blanket. I didn’t connect with him on any level, and I much preferred Scorpius.
I like that the characters we did see got fleshed out, but I was so disappointed that Teddy Lupin didn’t make a single appearance or even get a mention. I was sooo excited about a second generation play mainly because of him, but nothing. I also really wished we could have gotten a glimpse at Hugo and Victoire and Neville. *Sigh*
– F I N A L T H O U G H T S –
I understand that this is a script and the story is most likely better watched than read, so I hope I can get a chance to watch it and perhaps have my mind changed. I have tickets for a January showing, but I’m not sure if I’ll make it to London at this point. However, I want to see it more than ever now! Overall, I went into this with extremely low expectations, and I think that was smart. I cried, I laughed, I rolled my eyes, and in the end, I think I’d give this a rating right in the middle. I didn’t hate it like some people did, but I also didn’t love it by any means. It’s just…there.
Canon? Not canon?
Finally, I feel like I need to discuss where I feel this play fits into the HP universe. Jo says we are meant to read/watch this as canon, but honestly? I just can’t. It’s about as canon to me as A Very Potter Musical. She had no part in writing this play, and just because she says it’s canon doesn’t change my mind about not viewing it as canon. Maybe if this play was marketed differently, I wouldn’t be so harsh, but calling it the “eighth story” just doesn’t sit well with me. Or, maybe I just can’t admit to myself that I don’t want to view it as canon simply because I didn’t imagine this as Harry’s future. Because the Quidditch World Cup snippets from 2014 that Jo released on Pottermore? I adored those. And all the Illvermorny stuff that’s come out recently? I love all that too. And I accept it all as canon without hesitation. So what makes this so hard for me to accept? I think it really just comes down to the fact that Jo didn’t write it. I don’t care if she okay-ed it. If it’s not her own writing/words, I don’t accept. That being said, if this was marketed as an interpretation of nineteen years later, I’d be completely fine with it. If it was just a fun play like so many other fan interpretation plays that have been done, yeah, fine. But as canon? Not in my mind. If Jo decided to write her own version of nineteen years later or her own version of a Marauders prequel (PLEASE, JO), I’d be down for that.
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I think I’m rambling now, so I’ll wrap it up here. Please, please let me know where you stand on the whole canon/non canon debate. I’d love to hear other peoples’ thoughts. Or tell me how you liked The Cursed Child. Are you seeing the play? Let’s discuss below!
Until next time,