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Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (SPOILERS)

Reviews

I recently finished reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and like everyone else, I had a lot of opinions about it. The points below are ones that I thought of when I was reading the play – I’ve since read other people’s criticisms which I also agree with, but as these are other people’s ideas and not my own I’ve left them out.


SUMMARY

TITLE: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

AUTHOR: Jack Thorne (Originally based on a story by J.K Rowling, John Tiffany and the author)

GENRE: Fantasy

PLOT: Albus Potter doesn’t enjoy Hogwarts as much as his father, Harry, did. This causes a rift between them, which isn’t helped by Albus becoming best friends with Scorpius, the son of Draco Malfoy, Harry’s old enemy. Albus overhears Amos Diggory, Cedric Diggory’s father, beg Harry to use a Time-Turner that is in the Ministry’s possession to go back in time and stop Cedric dying. Albus is encouraged by Delphini Diggory, Amos’s niece, to steal the Time-Turner in order to save Cedric.

 


BAD POINTS

THE PLOT: Noting the plot as the bad point of anything really isn’t a good start. The main story of the play is Albus and Scorpius using a Time-Turner to go back in time to stop Cedric from dying, because…because reasons. Because Albus fancied Delphini Diggory, and because he wanted to get back at his dad, I guess. From this point the play unfolds into the most predictable time-travel plot imaginable: you go back in time to try and stop something from happening, you come back and everything’s messed up, you go back and try again but you just mess it up more…you get the gist. It’s a trope that’s been overused, and it’s tired. The Wizarding World is a large and fascinating place – that’s why we all fell in love with it to begin with. As a writer, getting to play around in that world and create a new story from it is such an exciting opportunity…and this is what they came up with? Really?

RON: I’m a huge Ron fan so his portrayal was a huge disappointment to me. His character was absolutely useless. If you had never heard of Harry Potter before and you were reading the play, you’d wonder why on Earth he was there. He was fat and made bad jokes. That was it. Brave, loyal, loving, able to bring out the best in Harry…nope, just fat and bad jokes. Oh, and he does threaten to give Malfoy a “smack in the mouth” as well. The great friendship that existed between Ron and Harry just isn’t shown, but this isn’t much of a surprise as we barely get to see Ron at all – compared to characters such as Draco and even Professor McGonagall, he’s shunted into the role of a very minor, comic relief character.

GINNY: I was never a huge fan of Ginny in the books. Nothing especially, she just got on my nerves a bit. But at least she had a character. In The Cursed Child she is reduced to a basic “Supportive Wife”. Her role seems to be to listen to Harry’s troubles patiently. The only time she does anything else is when she delivers this stellar line: “I can forgive you for one mistake Harry, maybe even two, but the more mistakes you make, the harder to forgive you it becomes”. This line just sounded so robotic to me. It also didn’t match what we know of Ginny from the books. The Ginny of the books would have sat Harry down and told him exactly what she thought a long time ago, rather than sitting by passively while he told Albus sometimes he wished he wasn’t his son, or threatened Professor McGonagall (both of which are out of character for Harry also, but more on that later).

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Jamie Parker and Poppy Miller as Harry and Ginny in the West End production of The Cursed Child. Source: Vanity Fair

HARRY: There are so many problems with Harry’s character in this play that it’s difficult to unpick them all:

  1. Harry tells Albus that sometimes he wishes he wasn’t his son. We all know Harry has a temper, but this seems unduly harsh – and for little reason. We know that Albus has trouble at Hogwarts and that Harry finds this hard to understand, because of how much he loved his time at the school. Harry also gives a vague reason for saying what he said because “he wishes Albus were more like James or Lily [Harry’s other two children]”. As we rarely see James and Lily, this isn’t especially helpful. Showing that Harry and his son have a complicated relationship like any normal parent and child is absolutely fine, but the jump from a complicated relationship to “sometimes I wish you weren’t my son” is just too great, and not very well explained.
  2. Harry doesn’t like Albus being friends with Scorpius. Um…why? Why would Harry care that his son was friends with Malfoy’s son? At the end of The Deathly Hallows it’s pretty clear that Harry no longer bears any ill-feeling towards Malfoy. They’re certainly not friends, but Ron is the one who seems to be keeping up the grudge, not Harry. So why does Harry care? Maybe it’s because Harry really believes the rumours that Scorpius is Voldemort’s son. He even questions Draco about it. Harry. Harry, who had to contend with vicious rumours throughout his entire time at Hogwarts, and knows just how damaging and how loosely founded on fact they tend to be. Again, it just doesn’t make sense. If anything Harry, who knows more than anyone the importance of friendship, would welcome Scorpius with open arms, and be relieved and happy that his son had found a friend. And that’s not me looking at Harry through rose-tinted glasses. Throughout the books we see how Harry always sees the best in people. He gets told on multiple occasions that he is too trusting – by Hermione, Sirius, Lupin and Mr Weasley. When Ernie MacMillan apologises to Harry for calling him the Heir of Slytherin, Harry forgives him without a second thought. When he sees Stan Shunpike with the Death Eaters in The Deathly Hallows, he won’t attack him because he refuses to believe that Stan could be a Death Eater, certain that he must be under the Imperius curse. This is when he’s fighting for his life, and everyone around him could betray him (and in some cases they do). So his being annoyed over something so small as his son being friends with Draco’s son, years later when he’s happy and settled…I don’t buy it.
  3. Harry threatens Professor McGonagall. This scene made me angrier than any other. It involves Harry threatening Professor McGonogall that if she doesn’t keep Albus and Scorpius apart (due to a very vague premonition from a centaur), he’ll bring the Ministry down on her. It is as ridiculous as it sounds. Harry respects Professor McGonagall. He wouldn’t threaten her, let alone make a snide remark about her never having children. And what makes it even worse is that she hardly puts up a fight! It goes against her entire character. I know this scene takes place in the first alternate reality, so this Harry may be slightly different to the Harry we know and love, but if that was the case then this should have been made clear to us. This is a problem that runs throughout the play. Jack Thorne seems to think that “people change when they grow up” is enough of a reason for the changes in these characters, but it isn’t. If you’re going to change characters drastically that are loved by millions, you should have a good reason as to why.

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Source: My Instagram, feel free to check it out! 🙂

GOOD POINTS

SCORPIUS: I loved this character – he was probably the play’s saving grace for me, as I believe he was for a lot of readers. Sweet, loyal and clever, he’s a good friend to Albus and remains patient with him when a lot of people wouldn’t. He always sees the best in people, even Rose Granger-Weasley (who’s pretty awful).

DRACO: I hate to say it but the Malfoys really outshine the Potters in this book. If the play had just been about Scorpius and Draco it probably would have been a lot more enjoyable. I loved seeing a different side to Malfoy. Watching him come to terms with being a father whilst struggling with the Malfoy name and the legacy that comes with it made him a much more well thought-out and relatable character than Harry. This was one of my favourite moments whilst reading The Cursed Child:

Harry: What did you want to do?

Draco: Quidditch. But I wasn’t good enough. Mainly I wanted to be happy. […] Astoria [Draco’s wife, who died] always knew that she wasn’t destined for old age. She wanted me to have somebody when she left, because… it is exceptionally lonely, being Draco Malfoy.

I thought this was really poignant, and I was disappointed that we didn’t get to see Draco mend his relationship with his son at the end of the play.

THE BLANKET: Harry reveals that he now has the blanket that he was found wrapped up in when he was a baby. It was in Aunt Petunia’s possession and after she died, and Dudley sent it to Harry. I thought this was a really nice touch and liked the continuation of Dudley and Harry’s hesitant relationship from the books.

THE SCENE WITH HAGRID: At the end of the play, the cast are in Godric’s Hollow after successfully stopping Delphi Diggory (who, it turns out, is Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange’s daughter. Make of that what you will). They decide that before they go back in time, they’re going to stick around and watch Harry’s parents get murdered (because reasons). After this we see the ruins of the house, and Hagrid enters the stage to pick up tiny baby Harry and take him to the Dursleys. Everything has come full circle. Again, it was a nice touch.


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Crowds gather outside The Cursed Child in the West End. Source: The Mirror

I think some of the problems with The Cursed Child are due to the hype that was created around it. Defenders of the play have pointed out that it is in fact a play, and therefore some liberties are going to be taken due to dramatic interpretation. This is all very well and good, but this isn’t how The Cursed Child was marketed. J.K Rowling stated it was canon, the cover states that it is based on a short story by J.K and two others – the fact that it is a play by Jack Thorne is in slightly smaller writing underneath. J.K Rowling’s name is still the biggest on the cover. If that isn’t enough to convince you, the book has “The eighth story. Nineteen years later.” on the back of it. It doesn’t get much clearer than that.

Upon reading it is very clear that the play is not canon. Clearly J.K Rowling gave Jack Thorne permission to create a dramatic interpretation of her characters for the stage. This in itself is fine. When you judge the play for what it is it’s not that bad – I’m sure it will have been exciting to watch in the theatre. The problem is is that J.K Rowling, or her marketing team, or whoever, decided to start marketing the play as another installment in the series. It was made clear that it was the script of a play, so it wasn’t going to be an eighth novel in the standard format, but nevertheless The Cursed Child was still marketed as a Harry Potter book, endorsed by J.K herself – which of course was going to lead to disappointment and anger when fans finally got to read the book. There probably wouldn’t have sold as many copies if they had marketed the play for what it really was – as I’m sure The Cursed Child’s marketing team is very much aware.

All dramatic interpretation aside, I still think lots of The Cursed Child’s crimes are unforgivable. It’s readable, but it won’t be sitting with the other Harry Potters on my bookshelf.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Featured image source: The Official Cursed Child Website

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365 Day Writing Challenge 53: Tear-Jerker

365 Day Writing Challenge

53. Tear-Jerker: Watch a movie that makes you cry. Write a poem about that scene in the movie.

Inspired by (and some lines taken from) the last scene of The Truman Show

I could never do this beautiful, many-layered film justice but I tried to write about what Truman might be thinking, or what I would think if I was him.

***

Now I have touched the sky

where do I go?

 

Now that I know that the world is but a painting,

that someone was paid one day to sit and paint my sky –

(and went home and had his dinner like any other day)

He had created a world with his fingertips

not thinking that I would look upon his creation

every day of my life

sunrise to sunset

(God nestling among the clouds)

 

And the water too,

my fear, my enemy,

that woke me up at night,

choking,

with the taste of salt in my throat

is now passive,

weak,

while I walk

(I am walking on water)

upon it,

how can this be what took my father from me?

 

my father…

was he even –

and my mother?

Are they sad now?

Do they miss me?

Or are they already thinking about their next job?

Their redundancy pay?

 

My mind hurts

 

Maybe I’ll wake up in hospital

and this will all be the dream of a sick mind…

***

You can’t leave, Truman.

You belong here.

With me.

***

A voice came to me from the clouds

and it wanted me to stay with it.

I said no.

***

 

 

 

365 Day Writing Challenge 52: Memory Lane

365 Day Writing Challenge

52. Memory Lane: What’s it look like? How do you get there?

White light through clear windows

Green leaves glowing in the sun.

Large and austere, but not cold –

full of little details, little nuances

that make it perfect for me.

 

It always hurts my head to think

That a house can be a home to so many people

Be special to so many people

Belong to so many people.

Having someone else paint your home a different colour

And it call it theirs feels so

Violating

jarring, driving past and knowing that it is no longer yours but theirs,

(they,them)

it’s… hard.

 

 

 

365 Day Writing Challenge 51: Sunrise/Sunset

365 Day Writing Challenge

51: Sunrise/Sunset: It goes round and round.
The sun rises and the sun sets.
No matter what you do, the world will carry on without you.

But that doesn’t mean that you don’t matter.

The Earth is like an old man, walking the same path he has walked many times before. You are a small thing to him, even smaller to the galaxy, the universe.

But you are still important. The more you do, the more you create, the more you give, the more alive you are, more human.

We may be small in the eyes of the universe, but we can be giants in our own eyes.

365 Day Writing Challenge 50: Just Say No

365 Day Writing Challenge

50. Just Say No: Write about the power you felt when you told someone no.

We say no for a reason.

We say no to tell the other person that

our minds are our own,

that we don’t want to share ourselves with another.

More than just a refusal,

it is a statement.

an act of war,

but mostly an assertion of ourselves

separate from the other.

 

 

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365 Day Writing Challenge 49: Joke Poem

365 Day Writing Challenge

49. Joke Poem: What did the wall say to the other wall? Meet ya at the corner! Hahaha.


 

I don’t normally write comic poetry or in rhyme…so forgive me!


Oh it’s such a laugh

To watch another gaffe

Another nudge, another wink –

There’s never any chink

In the armour of fools.

 

Bumbling red faces,

Untied laces,

 

I’m afraid it’s all nothing

But clever marketing.

 

One day we’ll wake up and we’ll see

They’re not who they claim to be

One day we’ll wake up and know

That there’s nowhere left to go

 

When it’s all too late we’ll see

That the clowns have hung up their red noses

 

And the joke is on us.

365 Day Writing Challenge 47: Light Switch

365 Day Writing Challenge

47. Light Switch: Write about coming out of the dark and seeing the light.

He sat up in bed and watched her sleep below him. He looked at the face he had known so long, the face he knew better than any other. He remembered the first time he met her, the smooth skin, the flawless smile. Now it was as if someone had taken the youthful oval he knew so well and traced over it – skilfully sketching wrinkles and lines until it had changed in its entirety. The woman lying next to him now was someone completely different.
As he watched he remembered the first time he had seen her face contort in anger. How her plump lips, that he had stolen kisses from so many times, had curled round her teeth. He hadn’t been quite able to believe at the time how he hadn’t noticed how sharp those little teeth were. For days afterwards he had watched them slyly, while she was eating, while she was talking, while she was eating, watching the little incisors cut through meat. Eventually she had dropped her knife and fork with a clatter and asked him if he could please tell her exactly WHAT was so interesting about the way she ate. He had stopped watching after that.
Now his gaze fell over her eyebrows, neatly plucked as ever. He noticed there was a stray hair in the middle, above her nose. She wouldn’t like that. She always maintained her eyebrows herself, (that was her word – “maintained” – as if they were hedges she was pruning) ever since the girl who normally did her brows at the salon had called in sick, and her brows had been done by someone else. The way this mew girl had done it, apparently, was not up to scratch. This was exactly why, she had told him in the car as he drove her home, she didn’t trust people. They let you down, and they messed up even the simplest of things. Her eyebrows had looked fine to him, and he had told her so. She had fallen silent at this, and stared out the window, her face unreadable behind her large sunglasses. He watched his knuckles go white as he gripped the steering wheel. He knew what was coming next, it was just a matter of waiting… It came, as it always did. The long, drawn out sigh, the one that let him know just how infinitely disappointed she was with him, with their marriage, with their life together. It was the same sigh after they slept together, the same tight, painful little smile. And he would ask her what was wrong, so many times, try so many different things, and yet always the same result: nothing was wrong, she was fine, and then that sigh, saying the complete opposite.
He sighed himself now, as he watched her. She never moved in her sleep. No snores, no twitching. Like those statues you lying on top of crypts in churches. Perfect repose. It had seriously made him panic the first couple of times they had slept together. He had fallen asleep with his hand on her heart, the steady heartbeat the only thing reassuring him that she was alive. She had woken up once with his hand still on her breast, her eyebrows raised, not, he thought, in an entirely annoyed way. He grew to hate the way she raised her eyebrows at him, more than anything else. As well as the little sardonic smile that always accompanied them. When he showed her the ship in the bottle he had made, painstakingly, over months. When he finally introduced her, after months of her pointed suggestions, to his small, talkative, overly eager friend Bert from the office. Whenever he came up with a stupid idea – no, whenever he came up with an idea that she found stupid. Because he was stupid, in her eyes. Stupid, useless, disappointing. Ineffectual. An afterthought. He was always there, bumbling after her, getting in the way. He looked down at his hands. Big, lumbering, clumsy hands. He looked them over, flexing his fingers. No. These were strong, skillful hands. Ones that could create things. Kind ones, ones that could stroke and caress. Ones that could love. Ones that could love the right woman.
He sat up, suddenly, like a bolt. He glanced at her quickly, fearfully. Still she was silent. He lifted himself from the bed, carefully and quickly. He eased his suitcase, the one that hadn’t been used since that disastrous holiday to Majorca. He shuddered at the memory even now. He piled his clothes into the suitcase, marvelling at how many he actually had. For some reason he had always thought he had hardly any. His brain was rushing now. Did he have his passport? Driving licence? Car keys? Thank God the car was in his name. Legal papers. Bank statements. There was a bonfire roaring in his head, all of his important documents blackening and curling. He made a mental checklist. Did he have everything? He thought so. He double, triple checked, because he knew that once he left anything he would never see it again.

The sun shone over the quiet suburban street. No one was awake yet. It was a Sunday, even the maniacal car polishers and busy housewives weren’t up yet. The only person awake was a man in a suit and hat, overly formal, as if he were on his way to church. He lifted a heavy suitcase into the boot of his car. He looked, for all intents and purposes, like he was going on a business trip. Except for a small, subtle smile that was slowly dawning across his face. Like the red fingers of sunlight at the start of a glorious day.