Harry Potter And The Cursed Child: A Belated Review

Harry Potter And The Cursed Child: A Belated Review
Courtesy Photo

Courtesy Photo

Anyone who knows me at all knows that I am a die-hard fan of Harry Potter. I’ve read the books and seen the movies more times than I can count, and the Hallows symbol is one of two tattoos that I’ve gotten in my 28 years on this planet. So it’s safe to say that whenCursed Child was announced, I was excited. That excitement started to wane shortly after its release.

It’s not that Cursed Child is a stage-script, written by someone other than J.K. Rowling. I was apparently one of the few people that paid attention during the marketing and knew what I would be getting into. Primarily, it didn’t sit well with me because Cursed Child ends up feeling nothing like a continuation of the series I love so much.

The problems begin within the first few pages, as it begins where the epilogue of Deathly Hallows left us, with the Potters and Granger-Weasleys saying goodbye to their children as they set off to Hogwarts. Harry reassures his youngest son Albus that it doesn’t matter where the sorting hat puts him, be it Gryffindor or Slytherin. This advice proves necessary when Albus’ fears are realized and he ends up in the notorious house of emerald. It’s a good thing he made friends with Scorpius, only son of Harry’s greatest rival Draco Malfoy, on the train ride, so he’s already got a friend in Slytherin.

Suddenly, time jumps forward as we are treated to an onstage montage of Albus and his first few years at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Amongst the insane amount of exposition and clunky dialogue is the beginnings of a plot, as Albus learns that Harry has found a time-turner, the device Hermione used once to take every class Hogwarts offered, but instead of going an hour back, it can go decades back.

“Awful things happen to wizards who meddle with time, Harry.” Hermione spoke these words when Harry wanted to change something in the past. It should be a mantra for playwrights and screenwriters as well, because whenever someone meddles with the time stream, inevitably, plot holes begin to crop up.

J.K. Rowling said as much herself when asked about time-turners after she invented the plot device for Prisoner of Azkaban. She intentionally utilized a kind of time-travel explained as a ‘causal loop,’ meaning that anything that happened in the past was set in stone as they knew it. In Azkaban, the events that Harry and Hermione affect had already happened exactly the same way, they were just on a side of it where they couldn’t see the whole picture. In Cursed Child, time is fluid and can be changed. The entire play is reliant on the butterfly effect, something that J.K. has never even hinted at being possible using the devices of her invention.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t some things to enjoy in Cursed Child. Personally, I just ended up having to read it thinking of it as fan fiction instead of what it ostensibly is, because if it belongs in the same universe as the last seven books, it leaves behind some glaring inconsistencies. J.K. didn’t write the play, but it’s based on ‘an original new story’ that she did come up with. How much of her original story is covered in the play or whether it was more of a plot-outline are unknown to the public, but as it is, I prefer to think of it as the latter and leave her untarnished record intact.

Also, the fact that it’s a script and not a book does mean a lot. Instead of the beautiful scenery painted by Rowling’s prose, we instead get stage directions like “it’s a lame trick. Everyone enjoys its lameness.” Scenes are set like they are meant to be for a stage play, because this isn’t something that’s meant to be read over an afternoon, it’s something meant to be seen and lived, it’s meant to be an experience. As the ostensible eighth book in the Harry Potter series, Cursed Child doesn’t hold up that well, but by all accounts, seeing it performed is quite different.

As well it should be. It’s an ambitious script, full of stage directions that I have trouble picturing in my head, even a former drama student who knows a bit about how everything works behind the scenes. As a stage production, I’m sure it holds up, but as a story, at least for this Potterhead, it didn’t.

Categories: Commentary