Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Script) Review
From West End play to script, is it truly a worthy addition?
2016 is a great year for Harry Potter fans. Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them’s movie adaptation is coming this November, and just last week, the West End stage play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child came out for public viewing.
While the majority of Harry Potter fans around the world do not get that same opportunity to view the play unless you find yourself travelling to London, fans do get to experience and relive the magical experience through the eyes of a rehearsal script detailing and narrating its story.
And for all intents and purposes, this review will focus on that script. But to lay out this review, one must understand the context of a script or a rehearsal script for that matter. A script cannot be comparable to a novel in anyway no matter how detailed it is written, even if JK Rowling wrote it herself.
Second, is the limitations imposed by a play. An author can vividly expand the narrative of a story on a novel in any level he or she pleases. The author is free to expand or focus on any perspective, convey emotions and dialogue in such a way that it can reach out to its reader.
A play is a spectacle for the senses, the dialogue can be heard, the visuals and the sets are magically designed to bring about the world designed by the script. The emotions are more powerful but more focused and more theatrical. However, a play does not have the same level scope of a film which itself is another discussion, and from this focus comes a unique experience: the experience of viewing it live and seeing how the actors and actresses perform the magic and reach out to the audience.
This leads to the understanding that the very structure of a novel contrasted with a film is different than a novel with a play. There are aspects that are highlighted to vivid effect, while certain elements are diminished to keep up with the play’s limitations.
That being said, let’s go into the details.
[I won’t be spoiling much, but if you have not read or watched the play and be influenced somewhat, please proceed with caution]
JK Rowling has long since expressed a desire to tinker with time travel as an element which was explored as a major plot device in Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban through the use of magical time-travel devices called time-turners.
In Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, this element is once again revisited, picking up the story from the epilogue of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows.
The story highlights the struggle of fatherhood for Harry amidst his successful career in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement for the Ministry of Magic. This leads to disastrous repercussions with his relations with his second child, Albus Severus Potter who struggles to find his place and identity due to his father’s legacy.
Simply put the story tries to address what-ifs in the past that could potentially lead to major implications in the future through time-travel. This obviously has effects on Voldemort’s defeat, potentially leading into a darker age of magic for everyone involved in the story.
The play is set into a time span of 4 years, which is divided into 2 parts and 4 acts, which details the major characters (Albus and Scorpius) interactions with the aforementioned issues of the past. On one side is the struggle to be a Potter, and on the other involves the dark reputation of being a Malfoy. Each character while exhibiting traits of their parents showcases a mix combining the best and the worst of their bloodlines.
I find the focus on these two a refreshing one despite struggling to grasp more of the details involving their ambitions and aspirations. It is after all restricted by the limitations put by the play script.
The wizarding world is clearly not as detailed in the script and is left into the imagination of the script reader, which is obviously a major flaw that only the play can resolve. While we can catch some glimpses, there is that desire to explore and to wander into that magical beyond that we all loved from Rowling’s world. Spells like Wingardiun Leviosa, Alomohora, Crucio and Avada Kedavra just doesn’t feel the same.
The one distinct advantage of time travelling despite having a flawed script is the fact that Harry Potter canon exists, and one can always look back to reminisce and go into greater detail on these nuances that are being influenced by these elements. This allows us to still reimagine the present with the past, and this very theme is how the major characters are able to plan out their respective actions in the story.
It is also a great pleasure to be seeing an aged Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny and Draco interact with one another. We all loved their banter in the books, their very disagreements, the greatness of the Harry-Hermione-Ron friendship, the struggles they had to deal in the past amidst the threat of Voldemort. Combined now with the misadventures of their children and their struggles of parenthood, this allows us to see the very flaws and strengths that we all loved in these characters.
My major gripe in the story is the villain. I’m sure many of those people who know of the story will have many questions about the appearance of the character, and how likely the backstory surrounding the character is. This combined with the very fabrications and misinformation that we are told in the story makes the villain incoherent.
While the time travelling aspect is a nice what if in the world of Harry Potter, a major part of it relies on fan service, something that fans would appreciate but also be wary about to some extent. Many characters are reformed in many ways, and alternate realities arising from the complex effects of time travel highlight these. This retelling can be off putting for some, as it somewhat feels like a fanfiction of sorts, which can tarnish our impressions of the characters.
And that leads into the major issue of the script and the story: the incoherence. It feels like the story wanted to do so much in a short span of time while highlighting key elements in the growth of the major characters. The various time skips for dramatic effect while good for a play bogs down the story in script form, and already diminishes the depth and the novelization that we want from it.
To put into summary, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a great potential novel, or even better a great potential spinoff if it were not for the fact that JK Rowling has expressed her desire to legitimately make this the official end of the Harry Potter story. The script while great in its narrative falls flat in many aspects that we love from the book.
Supplementary material: Definitely.
Novel: Don’t treat it as such.
Plot: Enjoyable but heavily flawed.
Overall: Disappointing for diehard fans, but if you missed and loved Harry Potter, you’ll love it for what it is.