Have you ever purchased something online, only to forget about it until it arrives weeks later? This happened to me recently when my copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child arrived on my doorstep. I was a big fan of the books and their respective film adaptations growing up. When I heard a new story was to be released which would finally end Harry’s story and form the plot of a theatre production, I was surprised. I, like many readers, was under the impression that the series had ended with the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows back in 2007. But I think what intrigued me the most was the theatre aspect. I found myself wondering if it could work on stage as opposed to film. And with J.K. Rowling, the woman that birthed the phenomenon, appearing to serve as an advisor for the production (English playwright Jack Thorne wrote the script), I was a little sceptical. So when the script became available to pre-order, I decided to snap one up and see what I thought. Then I proceeded to completely forget all about it. Then it eventually arrived and when I opened the packaging it felt like I was instantly transported back 16 years to my nine-year-old self, opening the very first book, which I got as a Christmas present from my Grandmother. I’ve always liked to read, but I think it was that book that kick started a passion for it, so it’s fair to say the feeling of nostalgia was high.
The story is told in two parts (the stage adaptation also consists of two shows) and begins right where the last book left off. 19 years have passed since the Battle of Hogwarts and the death of Voldemort, and Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny and Draco are all parents sending their own children off to Hogwarts. Struggling to cope with the scrutiny they are placed under because of their famous parents, Harry’s son Albus strikes up an unlikely friendship with Draco’s son Scorpius. When news emerges that a Time Turner may have survived being destroyed years previously at the Ministry of Magic, Albus and Scorpius endeavour to rewind time and stop the unjust death of Cedric Diggory during the Triwizard Tournament. But they soon find that changing events of the past is no easy task, and leads to disastrous changes to their present. It’s up to Harry and his friends to right the boys wrongs and once again save their world from powerful dark forces.
Cursed Child comes almost as an answer to a controversial plot point which left many a fan scratching their head, that dates back to the third book of the series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. In that book, Hermione Granger was granted the use of a Time Turner, allowing her to travel back in time so she could attend multiple classes, and also save Sirius Black from the Dementor’s Kiss in the books close. This detail rightly left fans perplexed; if Time Turners exist, surely they could be put to better use than cramming in extra classes into your already busy schedule? Why not, say, go back in time and stop Voldemort killing Harry’s parents? Or stop Voldemort rising to power? Or even stop Voldemort being born altogether? All those thoughts crossed my mind as well, but having read the script for Cursed Child, it’s safe to say that little issue can be put to rest, as it shows quite efficiently why messing with time is not the best idea.
So how do I feel about Cursed Child? Well, it’s not perfect. But to quote Dumbledore in this play (don’t get excited, he’s not back from the grave, but appears here in portrait form), “Perfection is beyond the reach of humankind, beyond the reach of magic”. So it not being perfect isn’t an issue. It’s still an interesting read, and like the other books before it, I found it hard to put down as I wanted to see how it would end. I think what hinders the story is the fact that it is a story to be seen rather than read. The script is easy to follow, but I found myself thinking at numerous points that this story would have been better served in full novel form, with J.K. once again solely at the helm, as only she can truly understand this story having been the one to create it. And as such, I feel it doesn’t gel as well with the rest of the series and lacks a little of the magic. But, as I say, I think based on the way it is structured, it would have more of an impact if you were to go see the play first instead of diving into the script.
One aspect I really didn’t like was the break neck speed at which the play opens. Within the first 20 or 30 pages we move so quickly through four consecutive years that it can be a little hard to get your bearings. For someone who is used to following the story whereby each book covers one year of the characters lives, it’s a little hard to adapt. But I did, and to be fair, it is the script for a stage show, and they are obviously on a time constraint so they were never going to be able to go into too much detail. But it’s this lack of detail as well that I found was frustrating in parts. Certain things are alluded to but never explained and it’s either up to you and your imagination to figure out what they mean, or to go straight to your computer and set up a Pottermore account which might help you understand. Not a deal breaker in terms of enjoyment, but it would have been nice to get a bit more to feed your curiosity, seeing as it was mentioned. Another minor detail that niggles me is the language in which the script is written. For the most part it’s well written, but in parts the dialogue does become slightly cheesy. This would probably work well when viewing the production, as good acting can often elevate sections of a script that are more melodramatic or pantomime than others. But reading these sections can sometimes be a little cringe inducing. Thankfully these moments are few and far between.
In terms of the characters, it was nice to see how all the classic characters that we are familiar with have all ended up. Who married who? What jobs do they all have? How do they all feel about each other years later? Who has died? And who is still alive? ( including one character that I was surprised to see, as she was quite old in the previous books, so I was amazed she could still be going strong. But then again, they are magical I suppose…). I won’t reveal anything about them so you can have your own check in with them, but it was nice to read about them all again. A large chunk of this story though belongs to two of the young characters making somewhat of a debut in the series, Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy. I found myself feeling sorry for both these characters; Albus is caught in constant friction with his father over his own feelings of inadequacy, due to him being Harry Potters son, while Scorpius is a kind soul unlike what his father was at his age, who essentially suffers for his fathers sins and must endure constant speculation over whether Draco is actually his real father. In contrast to the relationship between Harry and Draco, they are firm friends. I liked having them as friends, as I thought it added a nice contrast, but I do think as well that it came across sometimes as being forced. The reader would naturally assume they would be enemies, so great work is made to paint them as otherwise, even leading to what I perceived as a romantic undercurrent between them, and I don’t think I was the only one. This would have been fine, only it doesn’t bear fruit by the end of the story, so it seems like an odd choice to write them in that way, considering this is supposed to be the absolute end of the story, so we won’t get to see if it was really just friendship, or something more.
So, while Cursed Child has some faults, it’s still definitely worth a read due to some interesting plot points, interesting characters and for the fact that it ties up a frustrating loose end in the series, as well as just for the nostalgia of getting back in touch with your 9-year-old self. While I think the stage production will undoubtedly be a must see (and I’m hoping I get to see it at some point), I think if this story had been the basis for a new novel, I fell it would have given it the chance to be more fleshed out, and be more in keeping with the tone of the other novels. Ultimately, I stand by my view that this is a story that was always meant to be seen and not read. It is what it is and there is nothing wrong with that!
WRITTEN BY: JACK THORNE
STORY BY: J.K. ROWLING, JOHN TIFFANY AND JACK THORNE
PUBLISHER: LITTLE, BROWN AND COMPANY