Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was first published in 1997, and J.K Rowling’s story of “The Boy Who Lived” touched the hearts of millions of readers, with the final book released to the dismay of Potterheads everywhere in 2007. Since the series ended, the Harry Potter franchise took off as if it was on a Nimbus 3000, with its own theme park in Universal Studios Orlando, California, and a studio tour in London. The story may have seemed finished, but the fan base still had much to entertain themselves with – when not re-reading the books for the umpteenth time, that is.
That all changed this year. After nineteen years, Harry’s story still isn’t over.
Fans once again had a chance to don their Hogwarts house colours and bring out their wands as book stores welcomed them back in their doors as the script of the new play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was released on July 31st – the same date as the birthdays of none other than Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling. On July 30th, Cursed Child had its gala performance at the Palace Theatre, London. A mere twelve hours later, at midnight, Irish bookshops in Dublin, Wicklow, and Drogheda sold the book to a queue of devoted and dressed up fans, maintaining the tradition of midnight releases for almost all the previous seven books.
PSA: If you are yet to read or see Cursed Child I would advise you to stop reading here, as I devoured this book in one day, and there will be spoilers.
The story picks up where the final book concluded: with the Potter family at Platform 9 3/4s to see their middle child, Albus Severus, off to his first year at Hogwarts. From there, we see an adult Harry struggling with his past, while Albus has trouble dealing with his family legacy in school. Unlike his siblings, Albus is sorted into Slytherin, something his father narrowly avoided all those years ago. If a member of the Potter in Slytherin isn’t enough of a change, what might surprise fans is Draco Malfoy’s son, Scorpius, who plays a much larger role than anticipated. The gist of the story has remnants of Back to the Future, as once again we see the consequences of time travel play a key role in the plot. Albus and Harry’s relationship is evidently a strained one, and the dynamic of this relationship resembles that of Scorpius and Draco, which the boys bond over and soon become unlikely friends. Who would have thought it, eh?
The similarities between father and son are at the crux of the play. Though Harry may have outlived his hero days, Albus, upon hearing Harry declined Amos Diggory’s request to go back in time and save his son, Cedric, (who was killed by Voldemort “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” in case you don’t remember), decides to take matters into his own hands. We all know Harry and crew learnt their lesson about time travel back in the third book, but Albus and Scorpius are unaware of these risks. They return to the past anyway, meaning the present they return to after their attempts to save Cedric is vastly different from the one they left.
I may be a massive fan of Harry Potter, but I will admit I had my doubts about this new venture. Its seven predecessors meant it had a lot to live up to, but I think it measured up quite well. It certainly does feel like a continuation of the series; it feels like 8th story, the magic is still alive; characters we adore return, new ones are introduced, and those we hated resurface once more.
One things that fans will be disappointed with is Ron Weasley, whose character was lacking in this. Harry, Hermione, Ginny, and Draco played pivotal roles in the plot, but Ron seemed to function as a failed attempt of comic relief. I spent the time waiting for him to crack a cringey “Dad joke”. I understand that when a story is littered with suspense and tension, we need a good ‘aul chuckle every now and then, but that doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice depth of character. If anything, all Ron seemed to do was get on my nerves.
However, it must be noted that this isn’t another J.K Rowling book. While the story was created between J.K herself, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne, the actual script was written by Jack Thorne. Yet credit where credit is due, capturing the magic of Harry Potter with only dialogue and sparse stage directions is a difficult task, and ultimately I feel Thorne did a fantastic job. The script obviously lacked the stage effects and live performance the show would provide, but it also had less space than a novel in terms of imagery, as most will be done physically on the stage, and not through words. Yet despite these constraints, the script was so compelling that I had to finish it in one sitting, just like old times! Plot twists were carefully constructed, and though an ending akin to the tone of the previous book was expected, what I found in the script surprised me at many parts.
For a while, it did feel that I was back in the Harry Potter universe. This is definitely an emotional and nostalgic read for anyone who grew up with Harry Potter, as key moments and facets of the previous seven stories are remembered and relived. For avid Potterheads, it’s like your childhood is flashing before your eyes, almost like viewing your childhood memories though a Pensieve.
Tickets for the play in London have sold out until May 2017, but Rowling hopes to “take to play to as many places as it’s feasible to take it”. Here’s hoping Irish Potterheads get to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child soon.