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 38: Fire-starters

365 Day Writing Challenge

38. Fire-starters: Write about building a fire.

I honestly can’t decide if this one is good or shit, let me know what you think!


He had decided to build something with words.

He propped his words together in a pyramid, and walked around them, frowning, examining them, moving them slightly –

One fell, and the rest tumbled with it.

He too fell to the ground, head in his hands, a silent scream of frustration.

After a while he got up again, and slowly, slowly began placing them back together, more carefully this time, placing them over so gently in the pyramid –

This time when they fell he did not move for a very long time.

But, a hair, a leg twitched, and he was up again, walking away from his words in a tumble on the floor.

He returned with an axe, its blade glinting with hunger.

He chopped at the words, he chopped and there was no sound except the axe’s swish through the air.

He let all of his anger and fear and despair fall through his axe and into the words.

He lay in the grass, exhausted.

Time passed.

He awoke to a strange sound, a crackling, spitting sound.

He turned and saw a strange light flickering amongst the trees.

His words, broken and messy and hurt as they were, had become a fire, and it’s red flame soared higher and higher into the night.

 

365 Day Writing Challenge 14: The Found Poem

365 Day Writing Challenge

14. The Found Poem: Read a book and circle some words on a page. Use those words to craft a poem. Alternatively you can cut out words and phrases from magazines.

So, the words are: weddings, christenings, town, widows,  lock, skin, crawling. Every time I try to write a poem in this challenge it just ends up being prose, so I decided to just let it be and not force it :). Words taken from Local Girls by Alice Hoffman.

They walk through the town, heads held high. They live in their widows weeds, masks of mourning still donned dutifully. “I still pray for Desmond’s soul every night” Mrs Carbunckle always informs us at weddings and christenings. Desmond has been dead for thirty-six years.I’m not sure what prayer his soul could need.

They clasp each other as they walk, like a huge black crab, crawling along the sidewalk. Those weeds billow out in the wind, casting the illusion that these women are so much bigger than they really are, the shapeless dresses and cloaks always the perfect deterrent to any male glances that might be flung at them. Mrs Carbunckle thinks this right, you can tell. Any man who even dreamt of paying her anything more than a respectful compliment would feel the full force of her disdain. As she likes to say she is married. 

Mrs Dentin is different, though. I think. Much younger than Mrs Carbunckle, she is only recently widowed. Mark Dentin met her on holiday in California, they had a whirlwind romance, and two weeks later he brought her here, announcing their engagement. Many eyebrows were raised, not in the least one very bushy pair, belonging to Mrs Carbunckle herself. Many of the older women had Mark in mind for their own daughters. He was cheery and affable, dark and handsome, with one of those smiles where even the coldest of the cold find themselves smiling back. And he had a good business, his little DIY shop on the corner of the high street. But then Mrs Dentin had come along, Miss James as she was then (though she told everyone to call her Flora). She stole Mark right from under their noses.You couldn’t blame him though. She was beautiful.

They all went to the wedding though, of course. Scrunched up noses under big hats, primly adjusting their skirts, eyeing the flower arrangements critically. “A whirlwind romance,” they muttered. “It’ll never last.” But they seemed genuinely happy, the two of them. Mark with that huge, sunshine grin, she radiant in her dress. Properly happy, in a settled kind of way, not a throwaway teenage sort of happiness. But then the crash had happened. Mark driving to visit his brother in Seattle, Flora deciding to stay home last minute. A dark night and an exhausted lorry driver.

Flora was of course devastated. She and Mark had only been married for two months. And now she was stuck in this strange town, all alone. The women all had a huge change of heart. The usurper in their midst was now Poor Flora, poor dear. They flocked to the house she and Mark had shared, armed with casseroles and muffins, all deep sighs and sympathetic pats on the shoulder. But none of them did it with quite as much aplomb as Mrs Carbunckle. She took Flora under her wing, instructing her in the ways of widowhood. The two quickly became inseparable, Mrs Carbunckle always looming whenever someone unsuitable (i.e young and male) spoke to Flora.

She turns to look at me now, those fearsome bushy eyebrows lifting. I had forgotten how long I had been watching them. Flora, or should I say Mrs Dentin, though, looks pleased. Is that a small smile I see winking there? I tip my hat to them and get in my truck. As I drive them away I watch them in my rearview mirror. I can’t get Flora out of my head all day. I think about how it must feel, having her body locked away under all that heavy black cloth. Does she miss the feel of another’s skin against hers? When was the last time she was touched, really touched? Something other than the sympathetic hand clasp of the vicar, or the brusque pull of Mrs Carbunckle on her arm.

Is three years long enough for a widow to start dating again? I decide that it is. Now, how to get rid of Mrs Carbunckle…


© Kate Warren and Rebuild Expand, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kate Warren and Rebuild Expand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

365 Day Writing Challenge 13: The Letter Poem

365 Day Writing Challenge

13. The Letter Poem: Write a poem using words from a famous letter or a letter from your own collection.

“You are my lover and I am your mistress, and kingdoms and empires and governments have tottered and succumbed before now to that mighty combination – the most powerful in the world” – Extract from a letter from Violet Keppel to Vita Sackville-West (1919).

Vita,

I truly believed that we could change the world, you and I. Well maybe not the world. But our worlds. We created a little world for ourselves. Fantasies, games. I was feverish for you, desperate for you to transport me yet again. You are a true artist, Vita. A true artist can take someone away to another place through their art, and this is what you did to me. You took me away, made me feel that I was different. That I was beguiling, a dark and sparkling woman who turned your head. But when you left, Vita,when you left, you dropped me unceremoniously back into this world, dull and grey as it is. And as I hit the ground all the magic seeped out of me, like air wheezing from an old sofa. And I was myself once again, dumpy and unoriginal, while you carried on as before, seducing others, reminding me that you, yes you, were the beguiling one, not me, no, of course, of course not me. You were the master of the games all along; you were holding all the cards, while I, foolish dog that I was, followed you with my tail wagging.

You made me feverish, Vita. I felt that I had to have you, otherwise nothing made sense any more, not one jot. Is it sad to miss a fantasy? But how much was fantasy, and how much was real? My head hurts.

Vita. The lights are so bright here. Everyone is so false, their teeth too white, their voices too loud…my head hurts. Too much drink, Vita, too much smoke…the smoke gets in your head, you know?

I know you loved me, Vita. But you didn’t trust me, you didn’t believe me…

Why couldn’t they have left us alone? Left us alone to play, just play, we weren’t harming anyone, play never hurt anyone?

I was feverish, mad. I always wonder about the mad. Who are we to say they would be happier, bungled and botched like the rest of us? Why don’t we let them be if they aren’t hurting anyone?

I would never hurt you Vita.

***

Another unsent letter. This shall go to the smoke like the others.


 

Violet Trefusis and Vita Sackville-West had a long affair, starting when they were just teenagers. The affair ended after Vita accused Violet of breaking their pact (to never have sex with either of their husbands). Vita went on to have affairs with other women and men, most famously Virginia Woolf. Violet went into decline in her later years in France, and I imagined her writing this letter during that time. if you would like to learn more about their relationship I greatly recommend reading Diana Souhami’s Mrs Keppel and Her Daughter.  

365 Day Writing Challenge 10: Friendship

365 Day Writing Challenge

10. Friendship: Write about being friends with someone.

It’s weird looking back on the poem I wrote for you. It’s weird to think about who I thought I was. I don’t like her. In fact I hate her. She tried so hard to be the person she thought you wanted. But then you tried too. We created little moulds for ourselves, defined ourselves through our friendship, a friendship which fell apart as soon as we weren’t there to remind each other who we were supposed to be.

I was going to post the poem, but I just can’t. It’s too cringey, like seeing an old photo of yourself trying to be fashionable.

I don’t think I really do hate the version of myself that was friends with you. And the friendship wasn’t completely false. It was based on something true at the start, we just fucked it up. We were both so young. And I think that’s how I felt at the time too – when I was at uni it was genuinely the youngest I have ever felt. I always felt so much older than everyone around me. So, yes. You were good for the time. Good for being young. It actually says that in the poem. I don’t regret the friendship starting, but I don’t regret it ending either. I regret nothing. If you’re reading, I hope you remember this.


© Kate Warren and Rebuild Expand, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kate Warren and Rebuild Expand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

School children

Poetry

They are still messes of their parents.
Small figures crouched with baggage,
they are made of
what is learned
and what has been forgotten,
like oil on water.

But they are beginning to see
where they have been sewn together,
beginning to wonder
who it was with the needle.

We avoid them
because we don’t want to remember
how it felt
to feel the stitches for the first time.
We laugh
because we don’t want to remember
how it felt
to rip them open.

Some of us left our skin this way,
letting the cold air sting our wounds.

Some of us simply try to forget
that we stitched ourselves out of school uniforms
and into business suits.

(Featured image from visualhunt.com)


 

© Kate Warren and Rebuild, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kate Warren and Rebuild with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Fantasy vs Reality

Poetry

I just want something to happen.

Either the hot rush of tears

or the shock of a phone call

or the sharp pain of betrayal –

something

other than this muffled heaviness over my mind,

than the knowledge that emotion is just beyond my grasp,

shrouded in cotton wool,

And I want to feel it, I truly do,

I want the fuzzy picture to become clear,

I want to pierce through,

to bring tension to slack muscles,

to feel the cold of reality,

rather than the air-conditioned warmth of fantasy.

(Featured image from inframe)


© Kate Warren and Rebuild, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kate Warren and Rebuild with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

For a Friend

Poetry

You were never just a wheelchair.

I promise you that.

I know that’s how people saw you,

and you were so scared it might be true.

But it wasn’t.

I wonder how it must have felt,

your huge mind,

trapped inside a dysfunctional body.

Your thoughts an itch you just had to scratch,

driving you mad,

desperate and clawing.

You tried to purge them with drink,

but instead you murdered your memories,

caught in your own trap.

And still they plagued you,

swarmed you,

reminding you

that you were in the wrong life,

the wrong body.

But you weren’t wrong.

Not to me.

You were more than just a wheelchair.

You were more than just an email

saying that oh by the way you’d died.

You were my friend.

(Featured image from BarnImages)


© Kate Warren and Rebuild, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kate Warren and Rebuild with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.