Benson Reviews: Harry Potter & the Cursed Child (no spoilers!)

 

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For many Potterheads across the world, myself included, July 31st has always been a sacred day. Always. July 31st is our beloved Harry’s birthday, and also the day that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child dropped onto shelves and into our laps to devour as quickly as possible.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child opened on the West End in London on Saturday, July 30th to much anticipation while the script book was released to the public the next day. Hopefully, level-headed readers will not dive into this supposed “eighth installation” thinking that the script book will be like the Harry Potter canon we have grown to know and love. I

HP & the CC - Rowling-Tiffany-Thorne
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – photo courtesy of author

promise you, it will not. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, heretofore referred to as Cursed Child, is a play above all else – and a play not written by J.K. Rowling.

Rowling oversaw the proceedings, created many ideas, and signed off on the project, but our illustrious author did not pen this work. And it shows.

The play starts off by introducing us back to our magical world with the old gang all present. We quickly learn about their children and the main protagonists of the new story: Albus Severus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy. Both are social outcasts, for various reasons I will not spoil, and struggle to come to terms with their lives at Hogwarts and their fraught relationships with their celebrity parents. Hijinks ensue. Time plays a large role. Serious issues from the novels are highlighted. In some ways the play brings absolution, in others it leaves more questions than answers.

The biggest issue with Cursed Child lies in its execution. At times, it feels as though John Tiffany and Jack Thorne never even read the original seven books, but simply skimmed for the main plot points. Entire portions of dialogue are totally unbelievable, particularly in conversations between Harry and Hermione and for Ron in general. The characters seem to be partially formed reincarnations of Rowling’s originals.

Tiffany and Thorne also make the dynamic between Albus and Scorpius emotional to the point of awkwardness. Uncomfortable and random hugs, expressions of deep feeling, and emotive monologues are utilized for no apparent reason other than to bludgeon the reader/viewer over the head with the concept of friendship. I found myself saying throughout the script, “Ok, they’re friends. I get it. One is a Malfoy and one is a Potter. We don’t have to say it over and over.”

The plot employed by the writers is overused – children fail to understand real-world consequences and make unfortunate choices. Some of the ideas presented are intriguing in places (I won’t give any specifics, but one of the better parts is the maze) and I would even go so far as to say the first and second acts are good. Unfortunately, the plot, dialogue, and what exists of our beloved characters falls completely apart in acts three and four. Convenient plot devices are used to further the story and complex ideas from the canon are distilled for expediency, leaving much to be desired and insulting any true Potter fan.

Ultimately, while interesting in places, Cursed Child reads more like half-baked fan fiction than it does a part of the Potter world. Potterheads clamor for anything that has Rowling’s name stamped on it, but this script book was a disservice to the series. There is no evidence of Rowling magic, no touch of sharp, eloquent writing, no beautiful character development. This is not a story you can live inside.

I do insist on one caveat to this thumbs down review: it is not at all a reflection on the stage performance. The lighting and sound directions, as well as the set, sound like a fantastic in-person experience. Unfortunately, these technical revelations are under girded by a lackluster storyline.

My advice? Go see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them this November. It seems to have more of the magic we grew up with than does this unnecessary and clumsy addition. I wouldn’t object to a couple prequels (Snape’s story, anyone?), but it looks like Cursed Child is the last taste of Harry Potter & gang’s story – and that, my friends, is the most unfortunate part of all.

Benson Reviews: StarStar/ 5

 

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