Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
© 2016 Jack Thorne, J.K. Rowling, and John Tiffany
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the book young adults who grew up with Harry have been waiting for….though it’s not quite what they expected. Principally featuring his youngest son Albus’s adventures in Hogwarts, the play at is core is about family and relationships instead of magic and epic adventures. Harry Potter isn’t the boy who lived, he’s a father trying to live through his son’s adolescence, something a fair few of his original readers probably have on their mind as their own children near that age.
Like the prophecy that could refer to both Harry and Neville, the ‘cursed child’ seems to apply equally to Albus and his best friend, Scorpio. The son of Draco Malfoy, neither Scorpio nor Albus are made in their fathers’ image. Scorpio is a geek, one infatuated by the daughter of Hermione Granger. Albus himself is more of a mystery; his main characteristic seems to be that he finds living under the shadow of his father to be awkwardly oppressive. (It doesn’t help that he was sorted into Slytherin….) Scorpio is dogged by his father’s legacy, and constantly accused of being not only a wolf in sheep’s clothing, but the actual son of Voldemort. United in their misfit status, the boys decide to go back in time and prevent Cedric Diggory from being killed — Albus will have accomplished something his father failed at, and Scorpio will have good guy credentials. Unfortunately for these two, they’ve never seen a single time-travel movie and have no idea what an utterly bad idea monkeying about with time can be. (And naturally, there’s a confederate with a diabolical scheme manipulating these two to other ends…)
The good news for the reader is that, in their visits to the past and then to alternate realities, old characters return if only temporarily. Snape, for instance, makes an appearance, and finds the thought of his other self being killed by Voldemort ‘profoundly irritating’. When the adults realize what their kids are up to, they’re forced to attempt to intercede, so that at one point adults and children are working together in different time frames. The writers don’t just use the power trio, though, but create different combinations throughout the story. We see much of Draco, who has grown far beyond his petty upbringing, but is still isolated and haunted by the memory of his family’s malice. Although being a play there’s no narrative, the dialogue brought to mind some of the humor and warmth of the original books. Albus is an interesting character only to the degree that he is a partner in banter with Scorpio and Rose (Hermione and Ron’s daughter). Although his growing distance from Harry is explained TO the reader, the early scenes jump around so much that I simply had to take his sullen rebellioness for granted. It’s a case of being told, not shown, and unfortunately this arbitrary distance is Albus’ main attribute.
Although it’s definitely not a Harry Potter adventure in the old style, as someone who long resisted and then fell for Pottermania utterly, I found it fun. It’s fun in the sense of fanfiction, I suppose, and fleshes out that epilogue at the end of Deathly Hallows, but it’s more serious than that. Most of the fanfiction I’ve seen has infantile premises — fetishizing Draco, making Harry a girl who knows martial arts, that sort of thing. (I omit Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, which is The Best Fanfiction Ever.) The Cursed Child covers an adult topic — a genuinely adult topic, not a ‘let’s be gratuitous and pretend it’s mature discussion’ — while remaining of interest to adolescent readers. It makes me want to cozy up under a fall tree and read the books yet again!