Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne
Updated: Sep 3, 2018
This a review of the Special Rehearsal Edition Script, when read as presented rather than a performance of the play itself. Despite the slightly misleading title, this book is not actually about Harry Potter at all. In fact, it centres around his youngest son, Albus and his friend Scorpius. This script is the tale of Albus’ start at Hogwarts, School of Witches and Wizarding. Initially perhaps it is in the same school year formula as the previous books, but with the introduction of time travel to explore a serise of“What ifs”.
Act one explores Albus’ relationship with his father, the pressure of being the son of “the most famous wizard in the whole world” and his concern about being a disappointment of others as the first Potter in Slytherin House.
Act two brings the introduction of the time travel element; what if Cedric Diggory had not died? What if Ron and Hermionie had never got together and Ron had married someone else? What if Harry Potter died while trying to defeat Voldermort?
Act three brings a vision of darkness and the quest of Scorpius to decide if the light within him is enough to defeat it.
Act four bring the dramatic action sequences and conclusions, with a side order of introspection.
The format, being a play rather than a novel, brings a much greater emphasis to dialogue; characters share their thoughts with each other rather than quietly in their own heads or shown by their actions. The fact that most of the characters are paired makes this seem more natural; Albus with Scorpius, Harry with Ginny, Hermionie with Ron. It also helps that a lot
of the characters are familiar from the novels, we don’t need to have explained to us the motives of Voldermort, Umbridge or others from the past. Perhaps it makes it easier not to spot duplicity in a new character when they have no obvious “pair” to share with.
This does, perhaps, mean that anyone new to the Harry Potter phenomenon may struggle to entirely appreciate the plot of this play.
Albus and Scorpius both come back to the same issue; is who you are set by those who has gone before you? Does you parentage define who you are? The very real struggle of every teenager to imagine their parents could ever be like them, not to see them on a pedestal or the reverse, to see them as always wrong.
For Harry and Draco, it is the struggle of a parent to understand why their child can’t learn from their parents mistakes rather than having to go make their own mistakes to learn from.
Fantasy settings frequently divide the good from the evil with no shades of grey and in many ways, the Harry Potter stories are no different from this. Evildoers are for the most part clearly defined in the school context as Slytherins and in the wider world as Death Eaters, Harry and his friends don’t even pause for a second when they leave their childhood adversary,
Crabbe, to burn to death. He’s a villain and set the fire that killed him and the good guys escaped, so nothing further needs to be said.
The major exceptions to this fantasy trope are Snape, as explored in the previous novels, and the Malfoys, which is shown in the novels, but explored further in this play.
Draco is in many ways redeemed from his past misdemeanours by being portrayed as a father who is desperately worried about his son. Throughout the play, his role is to try and protect Scorpius, from gossip, from Harry and perhaps from the darkness that came with being part of the Malfoy family. When the future is darkest, Draco can’t help his son, but he looks to understand him and love him even so. So like Snape, he is saved from the dark by his love for another.
The play also gives us, the reader, a different perspective on Harry himself. As he is the protagonist in the novels we rarely see him through the eyes of another character, so the perspective of his son is new and not entirely flattering. Harry loves his son, but he does not understand him and at times refuses to listen to what Albus is actually saying. This frustrates
Albus and so in turn the reader, who gets a sense of a human individual with faults and flaws.
The insights into the characters, both known and new, is one not to be missed by anyone who loves the magical world created by J. K. Rowling.
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Review by Karen, first published in the BFS Journal.
If you have read this script or, even better, been to see the play, let us know what you thought of it in the comments below.