Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a delightful addition to the Harry Potter series. However, fans must first accept a couple truths to appreciate and embrace this delightful addition. One must first accept the simple but important truth that while this is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series it is not the eighth novel by J.K. Rowling. Rowling’s phenomenal prose is absent, causing the magnificent depth of character and universe created through meticulous world-building to not be quite as strong in this volume. This is inevitable in the medium of a play’s rehearsal script. Accept this. And accept that the neatly packaged happy ending of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows can’t sustain itself completely, that for another compelling and believable and meaningful chapter to exist the package must come untied with new conflict arising.
That being said, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is my favorite of the Harry Potter books, including the neatly packaged happy ending. So it was difficult at first to see it unravel, to see Albus Severus Potter struggle at Hogwarts and with the shadow of his father’s legacy, and to see the strained relationship between father and son. For Hogwarts, the place that was Harry’s home to become a place of misery (other than his friendship with Scorpius Malfoy) for Albus was difficult to stomach. Seeing Harry and Hermione as Ministry of Magic officials was initially another bitter pill. After the Ministry’s many obstacles and parade of incompetence they placed in the path of Harry, Hermione and Ron and the Order of the Phoenix, it was a bit disappointing at first to see Harry and Hermione working for them in such prominent positions. I couldn’t help feeling like they’d sold out to the Man. What had happened to these compassionate, courageous, brilliant individuals? Are we all destined to become enslaved by paperwork and jobs that deprive and cause family life to suffer?
That’s what makes Harry Potter and the Curse Child a brilliant addition to the series. Just as the readers have grown up, so have the characters and their world. Harry and Hermione aren’t sell-outs. They’ve grown up to take on jobs that fit their skills. They take on these jobs in a way that prevents as many obstacles and incompetency as possible, a stark contrast from the Ministry of Magic we remember. Inevitably, mistakes are still made (Hermione should have had better security protecting Theodore Nott’s Time-Turner). But their openness with the public and willingness to work with individuals outside the Ministry, even when such openness exposes vulnerability and the truth that everything isn’t under control, is major development from the Ministry we remember. And it’s because compassionate, courageous, brilliant individuals like Harry and Hermione have taken on these roles and do them far better than we’ve ever seen the Ministry do before. The paperwork and the deprivation and suffering of family life are downers, but a reality of those working in high-pressure, time-demanding positions. This is yet another step in weaving the magical yet highly believable tapestry that is the Harry Potter universe.
In terms of the children, Albus Potter becoming friends with Scorpius Malfoy and Albus being sorted into Slytherin were the perfect foundation on which to build the story’s conflict. When Albus expresses to Harry the fear of being sorted into Slytherin in the epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, we get the idea that free will must always triumph. So even if the Sorting Hat tries to place him in Slytherin he’ll still end up in Gryffindor because he’ll probably choose Gryffindor through his free will. Even if his free will takes him to Slytherin, Harry will still be accepting and their relationship won’t change for the worse. The play challenges the sweet but all too easy solution to that conundrum by placing Albus in Slytherin, and having him become alienated while seemingly failing in all the ways Harry excelled at Hogwarts. I say “seemingly” because the most important way Harry excelled was the meaningful relationships he developed, and Albus succeeds at that with Scorpius. Scorpius is quite unlike his father Draco and has many delightful parallels to Hermione’s character.
The story provides sufficient time to acquaint ourselves with Albus and Scorpius before Amos Diggory and Delphi arrive at the Potter household with the idea to bring Cedric Diggory back to life via the recently confiscated Time-Turner. Cedric was the first death of a likable character in the Harry Potter series. With the many tragic deaths of beloved characters that followed, his death became somewhat eclipsed. In light of this, the play’s focus on Cedric seems to be a way to honor his memory before diving into the consequences of time travel.
At first I was skeptical of the story’s reliance on Time-Turners and time travel. Instead of fully exploring the alienation Albus and Scorpius felt beneath inescapable and complex legacies their parents left behind, it felt like the story was copping out for Harry Potter meets Back to the Future and Stephen King’s 11/22/63. However, the time travel ends up working because it helps further develop in meaningful ways characters we thought we’d said goodbye to forever. It also allows Albus and Scorpius to better understand and experience what their parents fought for, the lengths one must sometimes go for such a fight, and the love of family and friendship will always be more powerful than any other magic.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this review . . .
Image credit: http://www.slashfilm.com/harry-potter-and-the-cursed-child-movie/