Ricky Church reviews Harry Potter and the Cursed Child…
Undoubtedly one of the biggest franchises ever made, Harry Potter has captivated audiences worldwide with its magical world, memorable characters and important themes. This year has been an interesting one for the franchise since it has resurged in mainstream popularity with the upcoming release of the spin-off film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but most eyes have been on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the now 8th official story in the Harry Potter canon with an original story by J.K. Rowling, that takes place after the events of the final book in the original series.
The Harry Potter and the Cursed Child book is markedly different from the original series. Based off the play of the same name, and written by playwright Jack Thorne, the book is actually the scriptbook used by the actors during their rehearsals. This makes Cursed Child a fast read, but it is also sometimes difficult to get inside the heads of the characters, relying on the short descriptions between dialogues to really know what the character’s thought process is. It’s a different kind of reading experience for those expecting the traditional style used by J.K. Rowling.
The characters at least get some decent arcs. Half of the book focuses on the trio of Harry, Ron and Hermione and while the other half focuses on Harry’s son Albus and his unlikely friendship with Scorpius Malfoy. The core of this story, however, lies in the relationship between the Potter father and son as Albus deals with a family legacy he never wanted and the huge expectations thrust upon him simply because he is a Potter. Longtime fans may be disappointed at their relationship considering how Deathly Hallows ended, but their arc does progress naturally as it emphasizes the burden Albus carries.
However, though Harry’s growing anxiety and aggressive attitude is a significant plot point, there are points where he seems to act wildly out of character, saying things to his son or friends that just don’t fit quite right. It’s a bit of a departure from what we saw in the original series and the flashforward epilogue, but it does come full circle in a way as the several father figures Harry had in his life were, shall we say, less than ideal in some cases (hot-headed fugitive, Machiavellian professor, etc) and he never really had his own father to base himself off of.
With the new characters, Albus stands out as the typical, rebellious black sheep of the family while Scorpius is drastically different in nearly every way from his father. He’s very smart, nice and thoughtful, though socially awkward and because of these reasons it’s easy to see how Albus and Scorpius were drawn to each other despite their fathers’ complex history. However, maybe it is because of the way the script is written and we can’t see it acted out, but there are times where Albus and Scorpius seemed interchangeable. Its much more noticeable when the two are in a bigger group rather than with each other or their respective fathers, but not enough work really went into making Albus and Scorpius sound distinct enough.
The story moves along at a brisk pace and has some interesting elements to it, but I feel it concerned itself too much with events from the original series rather than let Cursed Child be its own thing. Focusing on the Potter legacy is understandable, but too much time is devoted to the known lore of Harry Potter and doesn’t really allow Albus or Scorpius to truly come into their own as characters. It’s still an enjoyable story, but might have been better served if it separated itself more from the books.
Ultimately, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has some interesting elements to it with some good character arcs and relationships, but due to this being a script rather than a fully fledged novel, its sometimes difficult to relate to everyone. With the story stuck so much in the past as well, it’s never really given a chance to breathe and become its own thing. As entertaining as it could be, I think this would definitely come off better on the stage rather than off the page.