Review: “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”
The new story overflows with clichés
November 2, 2016
Filed under Arts and Entertainment
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Nine years after the seventh Harry Potter book came out, J.K. Rowling is back with a new play featuring the well-known wizard. “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” is currently playing at the Palace Theater in London, but the rehearsal script, released the day after the premiere, can be purchased at bookstores everywhere.
“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” tells the story of Harry and his friends, specifically their children, 19 years after the events of “The Deathly Hallows.” It picks up where the epilogue leaves off. The play, written by Jack Thorne and based on a new story by John Tiffany and Rowling, follows Harry’s son Albus Severus Potter through his first few years at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as he attempts to live up to his father’s legacy. Albus’s fears of inadequacy quickly start to materialize when he is sorted into Slytherin house, and feels like he is a disappointment. Meanwhile, Harry is overwhelmed by his Ministry of Magic work, and experiences painful flashbacks to his days at Hogwarts, all while trying to figure out how to be a good parent. After an argument between Harry and Albus, it appears that Albus has run away in rebellion, but he has really left to try to fix the past, the part that “The Boy Who Lived” could not.
Readers will feel a beautiful nostalgia as they reenter this magical world. The script starts at King’s Cross Station as the Potter family gets ready to run through the barrier and onto Platform 9 3/4, a quintessential moment for Harry years before and for all young wizards and witches. Immediately, fans get to feel the buzz of the first day of Hogwarts again, just like they did with Harry. In addition to the station and the corridors of Hogwarts, the book revisits important places like the Hogwarts Express, the Ministry of Magic and Godric’s Hollow. On top of the sentimental setting, everyone’s favorite characters are back. The writing maintains a good balance between preserving the original characterization from the books and allowing Harry, Ron, Hermione and company to grow, change and deal with the problems of adulthood. They are no longer 17, but they still have the quirks that fans fell in love with.
Readers will love the new characters just as much. Albus and Scorpius, Draco’s son, are arguably the story’s best additions to the world of Harry Potter. It would have been easy, even expected, for Albus and Scorpius to become rehashes of their fathers, destined to be enemies in rival houses. Instead, they unite and are best friends, supporting each other through the problems that result from being a “Potter” and a “Malfoy,” well-known names in the wizarding world. These fully complex characters are vulnerably human and very relatable. Prepare to grow attached to them and their friendship.
Unfortunately, this is where the praise ends, as the plot left much to be desired. Unlike its unpredictable predecessors, the new story is overflowing with clichés. How many times has a book, movie, or television show explored the idea that interfering with the past has consequences? Too many.
Then, the main characters always come to the conclusion that everything happens for a reason, or that the past can’t be changed; this lesson has been taught many times before in many different settings. “The Cursed Child” is separated into four acts, and nothing in the first three was very surprising. The fourth act contains a few redeeming shocks, but overall, the plot-line was extremely disappointing.
However, this isn’t meant to be a book; it’s a play. A lot is left to the reader’s imagination and knowledge from previous Harry Potter experiences, because elaborate sets and skilled acting are supposed to take the place of a novel’s vivid descriptions.
Taking it from script to the stage must create a magical experience that cannot be replicated on the page. For example, the stage directions call for mind-boggling magic, like Polyjuice Potions that transfigure characters right in front of the audience, and a bookcase that could swallow a person whole. Seeing all of this unfold on stage must be more effective than a short italicized description. While special effects would not make up for the lackluster plotline, they would add excitement.
So, although there are no official plans, the producers have talked about an eventual Broadway production. And, maybe then we can see what the script can’t convey. More information about the show can be found at harrypottertheplay.com.