Unless you were one of the lucky (and monied) few who got to see the latest instalment of the Harry Potter franchise on the West End last month, the show’s script might be the closest you get.
First a disclaimer: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is not written by JK Rowling. This seems worth mentioning in light of the hundreds of incensed Amazon reviews complaining that a) this new Harry Potter book is actually a play, and b) that it’s written by some bloke (well two blokes – Thorne and John Tiffany, based on a story by Rowling.)
So, assuming your enthusiasm for a new Harry Potter story has overcome your natural reluctance towards reading a script for fun, let’s get cracking. Accio, review!
The play begins where Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows finishes, 19 years after Voldemort’s demise during the epic Battle of Hogwarts. Harry and Ginny are married and have 3 children: James, Lily and Albus Severus. Harry is Head of Magical Law Enforcement, Ginny is Sports Editor for the Daily Prophet.
Elsewhere, Hermione is Minister for Magic and Ron runs Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes (George’s fate is unspecified. Presumably he died of twinly grief after Fred’s murder?). They have two children, Rose and Hugo, with double-barrelled surnames (that’s so Hermione. Smash the Patriarchy!)
The plot follows insecure middle-child Albus as he boards the Hogwarts Express for the first time. Once aboard he meets fellow friend-less first year Scorpius Malfoy. Despite the historic feud between their families, the two become firm friends as it turns out that the unfortunately-named Scorpius is actually the nicest boy ever. Seriously. He’s so nice he makes first-year Harry look like Nigel Farage.
He also lets Albus in on a widely-know piece of gossip which claims he, Scorpius, is actually the child of Voldemort. Scorpius is distraught by the rumour, (“I have my father’s nose! And his name!”) and its enduring popularity. Albus, used to the unwanted stares and gossip of strangers, immediately takes to Scorpy.
When the two arrive at Hogwarts the sorting hat puts them both in Slytherin (I know!), the first of Albus’ many (pre) teen rebellions. Suddenly the scenery shifts and a montage shows the passing of years – Scorpius and Albus are unpopular in the extreme – until we see Albus as a surly 14 year-old, riven with daddy-issues.
News of a Ministry raid in which a Time Turner (the time-travel necklace from HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban) was recovered becomes widespread, causing Harry and Hermione to discuss the implications of allowing such a dangerous universal-altering device to exist.
All Time Turners were supposed to have been destroyed during the Battle of Hogwarts (because who wants to leave a hugely problematic plot hole like that open?), but surprise! They weren’t. Hermione decides to keep it because, well, she’s clever like that.
Soon after this, Albus overhears his father arguing with a still-grieving Amos Diggery (father of Cedric, RIP) about using the recently-uncovered Time Turner to go back in time to save Cedric. Harry, still guilty over Ced’s death, flatly refuses: you don’t wanna go messing around with time, Amos. Shit can messier than a Blast-Ended Skrewt in a china shop if you do.
While eavesdropping, Albus encounters Amos niece and carer, Delphini and the two hit it off. Aw.
On the night before school term starts, Harry attempts to bond with Albus by giving him his baby blanket, the sole item of his mother’s which remains in his possession. Albus basically tells him to shove his “mouldy” blanket and Harry says he wishes Albus wasn’t his son. Kids, eh? Can’t live with them, can’t set the dementors on them. What’s a parent to do?
Moved by Amos Diggery’s grief and desperate to prove himself, Albus decides that instead of taking the train to Hogwarts, he and Scorpius will steal the Time Turner from Hermione’s office in the Ministry of Magic and use it to go back in time and save Cedric. And so ends Act 1. For the purpose of maintaining some of the suspense, I won’t be touching on Act 2. There are some really excellent twists that it would be better enjoyed sans spoilers.
So, onto the review business. In a critical sense, the sensibility of the Potterverse remains intact, even if the Rowling’s vividly-drawn world of witchcraft and wizardry is less immersive than in the novels.
Readers expecting a fully-formed 8th Harry Potter will be disappointed; only the main characters are mentioned and so fans may be left sadly wondering about the fates of George or Hagrid or Luna Lovegood or Grawp.
However, fans who’ve longed for more tales of Harry and the Weasley-Grangers definitely won’t be disappointed with The Cursed Child.
It might be LeStrange to say but Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a fitting addition to the HP canon. I’m really Sirius here, guys – you can expecto patronum to be entertained (okay, I’ll stop now).
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