One of the biggest things that has happened this summer for Potterheads everywhere has been the debut of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Along with the play debuting in London, Scholastic has also released the script in hardback form. This play is being advertised as the eighth Harry Potter story, and is a sequel to the seven books previously released in the series. On Good Reads, The Cursed Child is getting mixed reviews, and a lot of fanshave been very vocal about what they did not like about it. I personally gave it four stars out of five, and I stand by that. This post will explain why.
A lot of the disappointment I have seen about the story revolves around the fact that this does not read like one of the previous novels. That is true. It doesn’t, and you shouldn’t expect it to. There are a couple of reasons why. The first reason is that JK Rowling did not write the actually play. It was written as a play based on a story written by JK Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne. The play itself was written by Jack Thorne.
What does that mean? JK Rowling was definitely involved with the story. She approved of the characters and what they do in the story, but she probably didn’t write every detail. That means it is official Harry Potter cannon, but it is not written by JK Rowling herself. You need to understand that before you read it, and manage your expectations accordingly.
That doesn’t mean that it’s a bad story. The other writers are qualified to write this play. Jack Thorne has written for big theatrical productions, movies and television. John Tiffany is an accomplished theatrical director. They are qualified storytellers in the realm of theatre. They should be able to take the story ideas of JK Rowling and successfully transition it to the stage.
The other major point to managing your expectations is that this was written as a play. Plays are meant to be experienced in a totally different way than books. Books use words and narrative to paint a picture and create a movie in your mind (at least that’s how I feel when I read a good book). Plays are meant to show, similar to movies. You see the reactions of the actors, instead of them being described in the text. Plays, like this one, are meant to be experienced live, in a full auditorium with special effects and actors giving voice to the words. None of that is present when you read the script. It means there is a lot less detail, and you have to imagine many of the holes would be filled in with the actual production, which I would love to see one day.
One reviewer on Good Reads said this story reads like fan fiction. I think that reviewer may not understand that this was never supposed to read or feel like one of the novels on its own. It should feel that way live on stage, but just having a script in hand, it won’t. You need to know that and manage your expectations.
The Characters have Changed
This story is a sequel to the Harry Potter series, but the characters we know and love have changed. This is all happening between 19 and 22 years after the events of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. That is a lot of time. Harry, Ron, and Hermione are all grown up now, and for the most part, they have responsibilities. They have jobs and duties that pull them in a lot of different directions, which is similar to real life.
One of the complaints I have seen is that Harry struggles a little bit in his role as a father. I loved this. Being a father, and struggling sometimes to connect with my own kids, I was glad to see even the Chosen One had issues. As fans, though, sometimes we put these characters on pedestals, and we think they can do no wrong. Characters that are so perfect and never make mistakes are boring and they don’t feel genuine. Harry’s struggles with his younger son, Albus, feels real.
Doesn’t it make sense, though? When was Harry ever a natural or perfect at anything, other than getting into trouble? Most of the time, in his adventures, he was relying on Hermione or simply just winging it. That’s how fatherhood feels everyday for me. I literally have no idea what I’m doing, and I am just hoping I don’t screw it up.
Besides, where would Harry have learned about being a good dad? He even mentions that point in the story. Let’s take a look at his fatherly role models. There was his dad, who seemed like a great guy, but he really wasn’t around long enough for Harry to learn much from him. Sirius Black spent the 12 of the first 13 years of Harry’s life in prison, and when he was finally out, he was only in the picture for a couple of years, then he died. Even when he was in the picture, he had limited contact with Harry since he was one of the most wanted wizards in England. Albus Dumbledore was probably the most consistent fatherly presence in Harry’s life, but his main goal was to prepare Harry to die in the battle against Voldemort. This story really outlines at times how messed their relationship was. Harry really never had a great role model for being a father, except maybe his future father-in-law, Arthur Weasley, who I believe is the best dad in the books.
The tension between Harry and his son, Albus, feels real. It made me like Harry more as a character, and by the end, I was rooting for the two of them to connect and bond, all the while I can hear Harry Chapin singing in my mind.
The Fun Factor
The biggest reason I enjoyed this story and gave it four stars was because it was fun. It was fun to see what Ron and Hermione were like all grown up and married with kids. It was fun to see how McGonagall has settled into her role as Headmistress at Hogwarts. It was fun to be back at Hogwarts. This wasn’t the greatest Harry Potter story ever told in print, I know that, but I think as a theatrical production, this would be a lot of fun to see. Now I just need to find a way to raise the funds to make it to London…
What did you think of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child? Did you enjoy it, or was it not for you? Let us know in the comments, or you can email your feedback to me directly at [email protected].
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