Wednesday, August 3, 2016
'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child' by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne
Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.
It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.
While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.
Genre: Classics, bestsellers, playscripts, adventure.
Warning - I haven't mentioned any plot details beyond the first few scenes, but background information could blur into plot spoilers, in some people's opinions. If you want to know absolutely nothing whatsoever about the story before reading it for yourself, proceed with caution.
This is the long awaited eighth part of Harry's story which we didn't even realise we were waiting for. It starts off at the moment of that controversial epilogue from 'The Deathly Hallows.' Being a play script, it's obviously different to read than a novel, but this excellent story shows how complexity of character can shine forth with nothing more than dialogue and stage directions if written well.
First, we have two fresh young heroes representing the new generation. They are different from each other, but their strong bond of friendship, based on shared alienation, is excellent.
Albus Potter grapples with what several children of high-profile, celebrity parents have experienced before him. He feels he can never live up to his father's illustrious reputation, and since Harry's exploits included saving the world, Albus has bigger shoes to fill than most. Being sorted into Slytherin house, while his brother and sister carry on the Gryffindor tradition just compounds his resentment. Maybe the sorting hat can be blamed for some of Albus' angst. He's a prickly and sarcastic kid with some wild and original ideas when it comes to blazing his own trail. Some of it includes an illegal time-turner, and the cocky, over-confident little rebel almost repeats Marty McFly's mistake from 'Back to Future' and puts himself in danger of never being born!
His best mate, Scorpius Malfoy, turns out to be a bit of a show-stealer. Scorpius has that wistful way of someone who has had to put up with a lot of vicious, hurtful gossip, but hasn't let it embitter him. He's shown to have a milder, more reflective nature than his father ever did, and fears he's been a disappointment to Draco, who would have liked him to be more forceful. Scorpius' mother, Astoria, must have had a kind and loving heart, to judge from his own character and his reminiscences about her. Being one of those thinkers who hang back and make wry observations, he has some of the best lines. Although he's a natural follower, Scorpius is eventually forced into a position where he has to take control, make firm decisions, think on his feet and stick up for himself. I loved him.
I found these two outcast Slytherin lads endearing in a completely different way to the Gryffindor golden trio from the previous generation. If we were inclined to harbor a prejudice toward Hogwarts students from this house, this duo smashed it to pieces. (My son actually got upset some time ago when the Pottermore website sorted him into Slytherin, but now he's cool. Being counted among the likes of Albus and Scorpius is a way better thought than hanging out with Crabbe and Goyle.)
Seeing the others as middle aged adults grappling the challenges of parenthood warms my heart too. Harry is his same well-meaning self, but flounders when it comes to trying to understand his surly son, and sometimes sticks his foot in it. Ron drops his usual lines of comic relief at the right moments. And those signs of a nobler spirit that seemed to be stirring in Draco have more room to grow as parenting worries cause him to show his vulnerable side. You can't help feeling deep sympathy for him in this story, for the hard knocks he's had. He's a recent widower and his son means the world to him. There are hints of a romantic back story in which he stood up to his father at last. I always hoped Draco would muster the courage to let his defenses down, since it must have been rough having Lucius for a father. And I love that the other marriages are rock solid. There's some really sweet heart-to-hearts between Harry and Ginny.
I enjoyed the occasional jokes about aging, now the older characters are in their early forties. There are other fun bits too, such as the fact that the Potter family have gone off sugar. At one point, Hermione offers Harry a toffee, which he declines. It would seem that not only the muggle world is keeping up to date with current health trends.
I think the play may have purposefully set out to debunk or explain some criticisms that might have been leveled at the series, such as the limitations in the extent of help you can expect from time-turners and headmasters' portraits.
It's great to revisit this magical world with its limited technology. At one stage when the two boys have been missing and there's some clue to their whereabouts, Harry tells Ginny, 'I'll send an owl to Hermione and you send one to Draco.' It would seem they still haven't got their heads around the 'fellytone' as Ron used to call it, which you'd imagine must be far quicker and less fiddly. Although the wizards laugh at us muggles, the efficiency of our twenty-first century communication must run rings around theirs in some ways. But at least they don't get nuisance calls from telemarketers. Got to love them.
J.K Rowling is reported to have said this is definitely the last we'll see of Harry and co, but can it really be? There may be the vaguest hints of a possible budding romance between Scorpius Malfoy and Rose Granger-Weasley, who comes across as a mini Hermione. Speculations had probably started after the epilogue in 'The Deathly Hallows' when her father Ron joked with her not to ever marry him. If that's exactly what some readers hoped would happen, there's certainly more fuel for their speculations now.
Altogether, a real treat I wouldn't have missed.
I've written more articles about this play. You might like Is Harry Potter a bad Dad?
Or Can sworn enemies ever become friends?
To read about the dramas we went through to acquire this book, click here.
And to read a post about heroes, click here.
Or one about bromances, click here.