In the middle of this summer, Potterheads everywhere scurried frantically to any establishment selling the precious new edition of their favourite world of fiction. Of course I am referring to the release of the script for the new West End play Harry Potter and The Cursed Child.
For those who didn’t get caught up in the hype, the new play builds on the events teased at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows– nineteen years after Harry Potter and his team saved the wizarding world from Voldemort. But instead of focusing on Harry himself, it instead focuses on his youngest son, Albus Severus Potter, his relationship with his father, and an adventure he has with his best friend, Scorpius, who, of course, is the son of Harry’s long-time rival Draco Malfoy. Already I feel we’re off to a bad start, as several fan accounts have already fantasised about these two boys being best friends and in the same house.
The play itself was written in collaboration with J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne who all bring different things to the table; Rowling, the expert in all things Potter, Tiffany and Thorne, experts in all things theatre. Technically speaking, the written play is a sound piece of work, the stage directions make sense and the on-stage effects, whilst sounding challenging, are interesting and surely spellbinding in real life. My problems arose when I analysed the play’s story.
“The audience are met with character development which is only fit for fanfiction and not the pages of a professional piece of fiction.”
Immediately with Albus Potter we are met with the classicly overdone archetype of the under-appreciated middle child, who believes his parents love his younger and elder sibling more for a myriad of reasons, including in this case which house he has been sorted into. Throughout the opening scenes of the play, we watch at his resentment festering, as time quickly whips past the audience until Albus is about to go into his fourth year of Hogwarts. It is around this time that the actual plot of the play is unveiled with the introduction of the mysterious Delphi.
From here, the plot becomes a mess. It disregards the frantic shifts between viewpoints of Harry and Albus, as if desperately trying to remind the reader why they picked up the book in the first place. The audience are met with character development which is only fit for fanfiction and not the pages of a professional piece of fiction. Most notable of all of the disappointing character developments, is the realisation that Delphi is in fact the child of Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange- an evil character who can not understand the notion of love, let alone the meaning of sex drive. It was a decision which just screamed fanfiction, and yet now is part of the Potter universe’s expanding canon.
The potential for this play was wasted. Nothing new was brought to the table. The romantic pairings, unlikely friendships and even the jobs of the now older main cast have been theorised thousands of times across forums on the internet (I mean who wouldn’t peg Hermione Granger for Minister for Magic?). Overall whilst this play is visually pleasing and the cast of the play on stage wonderful, the plot is so weak that as a standalone piece it just doesn’t match up to the original Harry Potter novels. All one can hope is that Rowling has something a little bit better planned for the upcoming film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them coming out later this year.