Review – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed ChildHarry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany
Synopsis from GoodReads:
Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

It isn’t fair to review a play-script in quite the same way as a novel, so I will be looking at things a bit differently in the review to come.  I don’t claim to be an expert in anything, but I do have a theatrical background (mostly tech/stage management), so I did have some things I wanted to say about Cursed Child as both a script and a production.

Let me start by saying that this script tugged at every single nostalgic feeling I have for the Harry Potter series.  I literally grew up reading – and waiting for – the books.  I went to Midnight Releases for at least the last two of the novels, possibly more, and I still find the novels and the world itself fascinating.  Without a doubt, Cursed Child is a return to that world I – and so many others – grew up loving.

The characters have changed in some ways, sure, growing and maturing since the end of the novels, but in other ways they are exactly the same, still the characters we loved or hated.  Harry is still trying to save everyone while struggling with anger issues and the weight of his legacy.  Draco is still struggling with the light and the dark.  Hermione is still running everything.  Etc.

And of course there are the child characters.  The three we see the most of are Albus, Scorpius, and Rose.  You can see traces of their parents in them, sure, but they are certainly distinct characters trying to live up to or avoid the legacies left to them by their parents.  Kudos to Rowling, Thorne, and Tiffany for creating such well-rounded characters as well as keeping the spirit of the characters from the novels.

However.  This didn’t feel like the best writing ever to me.  There are all sorts of ‘silly’ lines that get put in scripts that you never see in novels, for one reason or another, and Cursed Child isn’t immune to that.  On top of that, sentences felt clunky and there were things that could have been streamlined.  There were also some fairly melodramatic lines, but those could be handled via acting and directing and proves one of the problems of reading a script instead of seeing it – there isn’t always a stage or character direction written in to give a hint as to how the line is meant to be delivered, so lines can come across cheesier than they would in a performance.

Speaking of stage and character directions, this script is peppered with them.  I know that’s because it’s a rehearsal script so these are the notes made for an actual production, but for me they were occasionally distracting.  That’s possibly because I’m used to reading scripts, however, and I appreciate getting to ‘see’ how the production went.

Also, am I the only one who went ‘man that’s a short scene’ at pretty much every scene?  Especially with the book formatting, it’s actually a much shorter play than it appears to be, although I suspect that adding in all of the scene changes, costume changes (esp. for those playing multiple characters), and however many intermissions (two parts, each with two acts) would add the time back up.

Looking at Cursed Child for a production, I have a few concerns.  First, this script calls for a HUGE budget.  Some of the settings described as well as how to move from one to the other, plus the special effects, means that you would need a big stage, a lot of backstage area, a fly space, a trap door… And there are lots of characters, although it looks like some can and were double cast.  Basically, I wouldn’t want to attempt this play at any of the theaters I currently work at.  This is a play that a lot of local places simply COULD NOT put on without some major tweaks that might ruin the magic (the magic called for in the script, not the magic of live theater).

I enjoyed reading the script and one day I would love to see a production of Cursed Child, if only to track how they do everything in the script.  But I can only give this script 3 out of 5 stars.  A nice return to the world of Hogwarts and Harry Potter, but the plot wasn’t engaging enough to keep me turning pages.

ETA: Just realized I forgot the link, summary, and cover image.  Oops.


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