Ok, so I have thought about writing this for a while, but I wanted to see the play and have a reread of the script before launching into the fuck fest that is the Cursed Child.
Straight off the bat, I want to clarify two things. Firstly, I saw the play and the performance was really impressive and worth watching for the theatrical effects alone. Secondly, this will obviously contain spoilers.
Today, I’m talking specifically about the screenplay.
I am a massive Harry Potter fan, I loved the books, I read/wrote fanfic and, I own at least one deathly hallows themed necklace. So when the Cursed Child was announced, I was really excited.
The play opens as the Deathly Hallows ended, on Platform 9 3/4, with Harry packing his kids off to Hogwarts for mopey middle child, Albus’ first year. Rose Weasley and Albus Potter enter the train, meeting Scorpius Malfoy, who quickly asserts himself as the only likeable character in the entire book. Rose is rude, which is explained away by Scorpius as the fact that she has heard the rumour that his parents (Draco and Astoria) were so desperate for an heir to the Malfoy family, Astoria used a Time-Turner and had sex with Voldemort, resulting in Scorpius.
The worst thing? This isn’t actually the most unbelievable part of this play.
Moving on, things go from bad to worse. Albus is a Slytherin and relations between him and Harry are not good. Plenty of teenage angst to keep you going, before a blowout argument that leads Harry to exclaim ‘Sometimes I wish you weren’t my son’.
Now, when we consider what we know from canon – how much Harry’s parents are idolised throughout the series and Harry’s incredibly strong relationships with his friends, I find it really hard to believe that he would say something like that, even in the heat of the moment.
Never fear, Cursed Child Harry is not just a prick to those he loves. Draco approaches Harry and asks that the Ministry (that Harry is now head of) releases a statement to say that ‘there are no time turners’ ergo, the rumour of his son’s parentage is a lie, therefore preventing Scorpius from becoming a further victim of bullying. To which Harry says no.
This is ridiculous for two reasons, firstly the fact that Harry experienced bullying with the Dursleys, it feels like he should be able to relate to this. And even if he can’t and has forgotten his entire childhood, he seems to clearly remember the childhood feud with Draco and is still holding this grudge at the age of 40.
The next part of the Cursed Child essentially involves Albus and Scorpius going back in time to save Cedric Diggory.
This sentence pretty much covers how we got onto this, as it’s so bloody vague and time turners are so poorly explained anyway (even in canon). Simultaneously, a new character, Delphini, is introduced and the rest is basically exploring an AU in which Cedric Diggory would have lived.
So here are the key issues I had with the Cursed Child. Firstly ‘queerbaiting’. I heard this term on Tumblr a few years ago and it is basically where writers hint at, but never depict, a potential same-sex romantic relationship between characters. It has never really been more applicable. Harry Potter canon has major themes of empathising with others and tolerance, so it feels uncomfortable that the Cursed Child would make such heavy subtextual suggestions at a relationship between Albus and Scorpius and yet not allow this to blossom.
The second major issue I had was with the characterisation. I have already delved into why I was unhappy with Harry, but moving onto Ron, who appeared to only be there for comedic effect felt a little absurd. He had several entertaining but throwaway lines and added very little to story. Unlike in the books, where both his role and character was incredibly clear. However, Hermione was where I took real issue. A character renowned for being fearless and intelligent was (in one of the AU’s) reduced to a ‘Miss Havisham’ trope without Ron, which was disappointing on pretty much every level.
So, what’s the conclusion?
I didn’t love it and for me, it is read like fan fiction, which as I mentioned, I have no issue with. The reason fanfic is so popular is that it allows deeper exploration of subjects that in canon, aren’t always that clear. However, slapping J.K’s name on lulls fans into a false sense of security, that what they’re reading is the authors work.
Saying all of this there were a few aspects I liked, more specifically in the play. Black Hermione made a lot of sense to me and Noma Dumezweni captured her intelligence, haughtiness and mannerisms perfectly during the performance. I also thought it was really poignant to see Harry explore his morality and conclude a few issues he had with Dumbledore.
J.K Rowling once said “Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home” and the CC does capture that sense of nostalgia. Just bear in mind, that just like returning to your childhood home as an adult, the Cursed Child reminds you that a trip down memory lane can look very different with older eyes.
So, am I being too harsh? What do you think?