Time travel and teenage angst: “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” review

The+play%2C+which+is+performed+through+two+separate+performance%2C+is+roughly+five+hours+and+35+minutes+long.++The+official+Cursed+Child+website+%28harrypottertheplay.com%29+says+that+this+is+due+to+the%2C+%22epic+nature+of+the+story%22.+The+length+of+the+visual+performance+was+not+the+only+thing+that+shocked+fans.+As+casting+news+was+announced%2C+it+was+revealed+that+the+actress+playing+Hermione+was+going+to+be+black-+different+from+the+portrayal+of+Hermione+in+the+movies.+This+decision+was+met+with+lots+of+support+from+the+Harry+Potter+community+and+the+world.++

Elizabeth Findley

The play, which is performed through two separate performance, is roughly five hours and 35 minutes long. The official Cursed Child website (harrypottertheplay.com) says that this is due to the, "epic nature of the story". The length of the visual performance was not the only thing that shocked fans. As casting news was announced, it was revealed that the actress playing Hermione was going to be black- different from the portrayal of Hermione in the movies. This decision was met with lots of support from the Harry Potter community and the world.

On July 31, history was made. The famous Harry Potter story was rejuvenated in the form of play and script book Harry Potter and the Cursed Child written by Jack Thorne (with story created by Thorne, J.K. Rowling and John Tiffany). Initially, I was highly skeptical of this release for a multitude of reasons. It has been a reoccurring trend with great forms of media that the longer they continue, the worse they get. Remember season six of Glee and books four through nine of the Maximum Ride series? However, when the fateful day arrived, of course I drove to Barnes and Noble as quickly as legally allowed and practically sprinted to the front desk. In short, I was frantic. I had been at the lake all weekend and was just now arriving home. At 7:30. At night. I had called the store before leaving my house to ask if they had any copies left; the reply I was given? “We cannot promise you anything”.

I was standing in line shaking and trying not to cry for fear that the play would be sold out and I wouldn’t be able to read it. A girl came up behind me and asked if I was there for Harry Potter too. I responded back in tears. The man behind the desk, now a little concerned about the sobbing teenager waiting in line, asked me if I was waiting for Harry Potter and assured me that there are a few copies left. One would think that at that moment I would have stopped crying but my tears of worry soon became tears of happiness and excitement as I held the book in my hands for the first time. Naturally, I returned back home and read the whole play in a single sitting.

I wish so much that I could say that my previous worries and doubts were proven wrong and that this play was an excellent continuation of the Harry Potter story but, I just can’t.

*SPOILERS from here on out*

The story opens with the same ending scene of the epilogue of The Deathly Hallows. Showing the son of Harry and Ginny, Albus Severus Potter and his siblings about to board the Hogwarts Express. Albus, being named after “two of the bravest headmasters” Harry has ever known, is extremely nervous for his first year at Hogwarts and the prospect of potentially being sorted into Slytherin. He enters the train and soon finds himself in a train compartment with Scorpius Malfoy, the son of his father’s old rival, Draco. The two quickly become best friends as Albus is sorted into Slytherin, unlike the rest of all of his friends and family.

During his first few years at Hogwarts, the reader discovers that Albus is not a popular student. He is beginning to feel progressively more and more lonely and distant from the Potter legacy. His partner-in-crime, Scorpius, is also an outcast as there is a harsh rumor circulating that he is actually the child of Lord Voldemort.

It is at this point where Amos Diggory, the father of deceased-Hogwarts student Cedric Diggory, seeks out Harry and asks him to right just one of the wrongs that unfortunately occurred in the struggle against Voldemort, i.e. Cedric’s premature death, through the use of the rumored Time-Turner in the Ministry of Magic’s possession. Albus, frustrated and angry with his father, overhears this conversation and Harry’s refusal. With this overheard exchange and the prodding of the new character, Delphi Diggory, Amos’s supposed caretaker and niece, Albus decided that he will take this task upon himself and sets out with Delphi and Scorpius to retrieve the Time-Turner and travel back in time to the Triwizard Tournament that took place during Harry’s fourth year at Hogwarts.Thus begins the convoluted plot of traveling back and forth in time (think Family Guy time travel episodes) and attempting to right the wrongs of the past and the wrongs they are inevitably making by going there.

Though in general I was not a huge fan of this story, there are redeemable aspects of the play that I enjoyed. One positive aspect of the play is its captivating story. Though it might not be the best in terms of content, there is no denying that it certainly an entertaining read (In fact, the book barely left my hands until I finished reading it.) Another facet of the book I appreciated was some of the fan-service because, after all, that is essentially what the whole story is. As J.K. Rowling introduces a new story in the Harry Potter universe with new characters, the reader also gets to visit past characters, beloved or not, from the previous seven stories. There are romantic moments between Harry and Ginny and Ron and Hermione; there are conversations and encounters with controversial characters like Draco Malfoy and Severus Snape that are sure to make Draco and Snape supporters happy (and maybe even proud).

Despite these various aspects, the cons of the play outweigh the pros. For starters, the dialogue is not the best. Not only did the flow and humor of the story not come across well in written dialogue- though seeing the play performed visually would most likely help with issue some- but, most things that were said felt very forced and unnatural. Characters were saying things that were extremely out of character. Anyone could make the argument that of course the way people act and communicate will change and develop as they grow older however, when the author only has 327 of a play to tell a whole new story, it is not the best time to erase all of the character development and character traits that were built up throughout the course of seven books. For example, one of the characters that bothered me the most in this story was Ron. Throughout the entire Harry Potter series, Ron was trying to prove that he was a valuable member of the Golden trio and that he was an important, smart, and kind person. Somehow, all of that character development was forgotten in this play because Ron was pushed into the background and was only utilized for comic relief.

Another exceedingly frustrating part of this play is the fact that important plot points in the play are simply not explained. I understand that there is a limited time frame to tell a story in a play but, that does not excuse for having a story that does not make sense. It was said that evil forces were mobilizing and that Harry’s scar was hurting once again, but it was never explained why those things were happening. Was it simply because of the threat of Voldemort returning or was Delphi secretly teaming up with dark creatures?

Another situation that did not quite make sense was when Albus and Scorpius were stuck back in time and concocted the plan to retrieve Harry’s baby blanket in order to send a message to the future to ask for help. All of the sudden they just had the blanket even though moments previously it was wrapped around baby Harry who was with his two parents. In a typical story it would have been told or shown how those two boys managed that feat but instead, it just sort-of happened.

Basically, the story as a whole felt completely forced (Scorpius pining after Rose at the end?) and not at all like a Harry Potter story. Everything from the plot to the characters simply did not feel like a true Harry Potter story. In fact, the story gave the feeling of a weird fan-fiction (the trolley witch? Bellatrix having a child with Voldemort?). I believe that this story is still worth reading for huge fans of the Harry Potter universe – as long as they are not expecting a story similar to the original series- as it is canon and a continuation of the story we all adore however, for casual fans, this story in my opinion is not worth the time.