Most are familiar with the Harry Potter series by British author J.K. Rowling, which follows Harry Potter, “The Boy Who Lived,” and his loyal friends as they battle against the evil Lord Voldemort. Full of intriguing plots, flawed but likable characters, (and some who are not so likable) and action-packed scenes, it has inspired generations of children and adults alike. The series has spanned seven bestselling novels, eight award-winning films, theme parks, and even Pottermore, a website created by Rowling herself in which she gives character backstories, short anecdotes, news, and more. Recently, playwright Jack Thorne, along with theater director John Tiffany and Rowling created Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a much-anticipated play that takes place nineteen years after the events of the original novels.
The play is now being performed in London at the Palace Theater, but much to the delight of devoted Harry Potter fans, the rehearsal script was released for sale on July 31, 2016. It follows an adult Harry Potter, his wife, Ginny Weasley and their three children, particularly focusing on his teenage son, Albus Severus. Harry and Ginny are happily married, and Harry is working as the head of Magical Law Enforcement in the Ministry of Magic. His best friends since childhood, Ron and Hermione, are married and have two children of their own, and Hermione is now the Minister for Magic.
Cursed Child touches on elements of family, secrets, magic and lies. The play deals with Albus’ sorting into Slytherin rather than Gryffindor, and his befriending Scorpius Malfoy, the son of Harry’s former nemesis, Draco. It also delves into Harry’s life as an adult, and the effects that his reputation as “the Boy Who Lived” has had his family, particularly Albus. Draco Malfoy was a prominent part of the series, and in this installment, we learn more about his son, Scorpius, who is suffering with the loss of his mother and some less than savory rumors regarding his relationship to Voldemort.
However, exciting as it may be to dive back into the beloved world of Harry Potter, the reader should not expect to find much of Rowling’s usual witty writing while browsing the screenplay. The play holds little of Rowling’s signature finesse, and reads more like fan fiction, (albeit, solid) than anything. For the most part, it is a mash-up of childhood nostalgia and a twisty plot that switches between the past and the present (via the use of the Time Turner) with rapid intensity.
Some scenes in the play are amusing, and delightfully reminiscent of previous novels (such as the familiar banter between Harry, Ron and Hermione and the similar interactions of their children). Others try too hard to be nostalgic, throwing in an often misplaced reference to a previous novel that falls flat. However, the references might be a necessary evil, as they do light a fuse of recognition that the reader may need in case they have not read the previous novels in a while. Cursed Child also bring back some other familiar characters, such as strict but kind Headmistress (formerly Professor) Minerva McGonagall, Draco Malfoy, and even characters who had previously died, such as Albus Dumbledore, Severus Snape, and Cedric Diggory (who along with his father, Amos, plays a large role in the plot).
If, while reading Cursed Child, the reader is expecting it to be another Harry Potter novel, then they will be disappointed. However, if they approach Cursed Child without expectations that it will hold up to the original series, it will serve as a delightful treat for nostalgic fans who are looking to delve back into a world that they have missed dearly. There is some comfort in knowing that a longing to retreat back to the magical world of Harry Potter can so easily be remedied due to the special insights and anecdotes with which Rowling has provided us.