& Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K Rowling

Hey all! There has been quite a bit of Harry Potter hubbub of late, and I have some things to say about it all, so I am officially dubbing this HARRY POTTER WEEK! HOORAY! BUTTERBEER FOR EVERYONE! There will be quizzes and reviews and a post about a fun way I’ve injected Harry Potter into my everyday life on Friday. BUT FIRST, the review you’ve all been waiting for (or maybe not, because you all have lives and jobs and families and whatnot): HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John TIffany, and Jack Thorne. Published: Arthur A. Levine Books July 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John TIffany, and Jack Thorne. Published: Arthur A. Levine Books July 2016

The Book Itself: Different than the Potter books we’ve come to love. The play poster was not designed by the same artist as the other books, which may have a factor in why I don’t like it as much. There’s a lot of empty space around this flying nest thing. It feels like it’s missing a lot of scenery, a lot of context.

My Review: Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

How does one even begin this review? People have come up to me these past couple of weeks with guarded expressions. “Sooooo,” they begin, “what did you think?” They know I’m a Harry Potter fan. A big one. And so when they see the book in a store, or the topic comes up in conversation, it’s like they’re wincing away from my going on a tirade about how awful it was or something. Or they’re hoping I loved it and will tell them it’s just like the rest of the series.

Well, it’s not. Like the rest of the series, I mean. I personally loved it for what it was. But it is NOT another Harry Potter book. It’s not a novel – it is literally a copy of the script that is being performed in London. A working script at that. So there are no descriptive scenes. No loving portrayal of Hogwarts or the Great Hall or the Whomping Willow. It is pure dialogue. And as such, you read it a bit differently. You have to fill in the scene more in your mind. For certain Harry Potter fans, this is not a problem: the world of witchcraft and wizardry is alive and well in your mind’s eye. All you need to do is read the words “Ron,” and “Hogwarts,” and you can immediately picture it.

Reading a script is also interesting because I don’t really think it helps with character development. I think getting a character’s actions as well as their words helps make them seem more rounded in a scene or story. Dialogue is a huge piece of how a character grows, but it’s hard when you aren’t seeing them do something. A lot of my friends who have read this had that gripe: that the character development was lacking. New and old characters acted differently than they expected or remembered. But it’s just their words. I feel like the whole piece would be much more powerful seen acted out than read.

So. Much. Happens. No wonder they had to break this thing up into multiple plays! Not only do we go through several years of Hogwarts schooling (remember when we had a book for each one of those?!), but Harry’s son Albus Severus (yep, I still hate the name after reading the whole script) goes on this grand adventure. The kind of adventure the movie studios would split into two. You know, because money. It’s a lot of plot points, and again because it’s only dialogue, the book whips right along so quickly that you feel like it’s a bit rushed.

There is also a BUNCH of stuff that I have no idea how they will translate to physical stage work. How will they change one actor into another via Polyjuice Potion? How will the centaur appear? How will they do magic duels, enchanted objects, time travel? I think the stage crew could be as impressive, if not more impressive, than the actors cast as the characters in this play.

I will say that some things that returning characters did or said seemed out of left field. And a lot of it is a little too nicey-nice. A heart-warming scene with Severus Snape take place I think because so many people loved Snape right as he died in the other books, and they didn’t get to see him be nice very often. Ron is relegated to almost pure comic relief, because people liked his one-liners. It is emphasized how important Neville’s character is, again, I think because he became such a fan favorite. In a way, this play was created for the fans, with a lot of wish fulfillment. There are actions and scenes included that Rowling perhaps thought fans wanted, that didn’t necessarily jive with what other fans loved or wanted, and that didn’t lend itself to a cohesive story about the years after the battle at Hogwarts.

Does it sound like I have a lot of criticism for it? Maybe. But I also LOVED it. I read this play just as fast as I did the other Potter books. I loved seeing old characters saying things that reminded me of their younger selves in the previous series. I loved being introduced to their children, to their new friends, and I loved seeing some old standbys: the Time Turner, Polyjuice Potion, sneaking into places you shouldn’t, etc. etc. etc. I was transported to reading the Harry Potter books under the edge of my desk at school, trying not to get caught. Or listening to the books on tape during family roadtrips. Or going to the midnight premier of the last book, and all five of us silently reading in the car as we drove home together.

Basically Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is one big ‘ole ball of nostalgia. Which is both a good and bad thing: I absolutely loved reading about being in that world again. But some of the character choices seemed to pander to fan favorites a little bit too much.

I am also very happy to announce that I will be attending Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two in London, this coming April 2017!!! Excited doesn’t begin to cover what I am feeling about that. I will be seeing both plays in the same day, staying in London for the week, and visiting as many Harry Potter things as possible while I am there. I will, of course, blog all about it.

Let me know what you thought about Cursed Child, and stay tuned for Harry Potter all week long!!

My Grade: B+


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