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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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

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 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.

 

 

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 46: Dirty

365 Day Writing Challenge

46. Dirty: Write a poem about getting covered in mud.

I loved

jumping in

and feeling the squelch under my wellies

I would find the muddiest, dirtiest part

and dig my feet in, over and over, and feel the earth move beneath me

every step was a joy

just to feel

 

365 Day Writing Challenge 43: The Sound of Silence

365 Day Writing Challenge

43. The Sound of Silence: Write about staying quiet when you feel like shouting.

This is about a number of different people. Not really a poem or anything, just an elongated shout really.


Stop trying to squash me

Stop trying to make me fit in your narrow definition of who I am

Stop trying to initiate me into your cult of fucked up views

Stop making me feel different!

Stop making me feel weird and out of place and awkward

I am a valid human being too.

With valid opinions and valid feelings!

Stop thinking it’s OK to talk to me like that

because you know that I’m paid not to say anything back.

Stop being disgusting.

Learn to eat quietly!

Learn to admit that you are wrong!

Learn some fucking manners!

I’m sick of all of you.

I want to find people who are intelligent and understanding and not full of crap.

They seem to be very hard to find.

{Featured image from ISORepublic)

365 Day Writing Challenge 42: Warehouse

365 Day Writing Challenge

42. Warehouse: Write about being inside an old abandoned warehouse.

She stole through the black dust and the silver moonlight. She knew her lover would meet her here soon. She knew he would find her, knew his dark arms would reach out and pull her to him, and she would feel his heartbeat underneath the firmness of his torso. She would run her hands through his black, black hair, and he would tell his love to her in whispers as she unbuttoned his shirt and her hands ran, pale and slender, all over his bare chest.

Her breath caught and she stopped, reminding herself that soon this would really be happening, she would be his and he would be hers once again. She found a black, dusty corner to wait in. Only her eyes glittered palely in the darkness.