Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne
Series: Harry Potter, #8
Published: 2016 by Little Brown UK
Genre(s): Play, Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: Hardcover, Special Rehearsal Edition
Harry Potter and The Cursed Child is the eighth instalment to the incredibly beloved Harry Potter series, and it’s also a near-dream-come-true to a multitude of the fans—perhaps particularly to those who have ventured into the depths of Harry Potter fanfiction, or to those who have visualised multiple headcannons and the likes.
With that said, it’s a damn sad thing that the most prominent thought I had while reading this play is “Well, isn’t this like a bundle of headcannons/Harry Potter fanfic tropes all in one?”. Of course, the complete potterhead side of me is extremely pleased that some of the headcannons and tropes are now official, but the literature student side of me cannot help but feel dissatisfied. All that hype, that anxiety, that eagerness—all for what? A play that reads like one of the other thousands of Harry Potter fanfiction out there? The entire plot was so obvious, right from the beginning and it simply hurt my heart to read this play. Yes, we all know that our beloved heroes will be alive, we all know that Harry and Albus will for sure, fix their relationship because there is no way that the opposite will take place. Even so, it’s as though the playwright (or playwrights, though the only person credited as such in this book is Jack Thorne) has taken the complex story of the Potter world and simplified it into something any other potterhead could conjure up.
Of course, I’m not stating that this simplification is due to the nature of this book. A play is a play, and for me, a play can only fully be brought to life when staged (thus, it’s a real downer that I was unable to watch this play being performed). Instead, I’m stating that the playwright(s) has failed to implement complexities or inject something unique that enraptures without fail, in the plot. S/he has failed to create something that would leave the audience searching for meaning deep and profound—for something that will stay with them for as long as they’ll allow. For instance, Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. It feels pointless, plotless, but the ultimate realization of what the play can possibly mean—the depth of its possible meanings despite the simplicity of the plot, is a complexity. Another example would be William Shakespeare’s Othello. We know that it’s a tragedy, we know that people will die. Logically, we know, we know, we know, and yet, when some delve into the play for the first time, they cannot help but be enthralled. There is something fascinating in the story, in the characters that just holds our attention even after the very end. So yes, the playwright(s) has failed something incredibly important—something that J. K. Rowling has done incredibly well with the seven Harry Potter novels.
That aside, the playwright(s) has done a rather good job in keeping the characters of the Potter world in character, though the slight OOC-ness (out of character) of my most favourite Harry Potter character, Severus Snape has me questioning if J.K. Rowling actually had as much control over this play as some believe. It’s difficult for me to picture a person who loves and has (and continues to) painstakingly built something as magnificent as the Potter world, will allow something that can be seen as an amateur mistake such as his/her characters being out of character. Though, this point is entirely moot—worth mentioning for me—but moot since this stems from my even greater difficulty to picture Severus calling Ron Weasley as simply “Ron”.
Also, am I the only one who found some of the stage directions weird? Perhaps it’s because most of the plays I’ve read thus far are from older centuries, but really, does no one else find “And now we enter a never-world of time change. And this scene is all about magic” (p.19) odd? Like, it’s that supposed to be the narrator? It doesn’t sound very stage-directions-like.
Again, this play was an immense enjoyment for my potterhead-fangirl side, but it’s unfortunately a disappointment for my literature student side. I agree with other reviewers saying that this play was a risky experiment—one with an alright result, but the seventh novel has already concluded Harry Potter’s journey in the most perfect manner possible. Companion novels such as the ones included in the Hogwarts Library set are fine, stories about other magical schools are great, but other than that? Please, stop.