"Harry Potter and the Cursed Child": A Review
Spoiler Alert—this review contains information about the plot, characters, and twists in the new Harry Potter play. Don't say I didn't warn you!
We've waited years for another Harry Potter read, and the new book will delight fans, though it definitely isn't the strongest tale of the bunch. The theme of relationships with fathers continues in the saga. Harry himself is the strongest character in the whole play. Ron's character comes off very flat, too flat. I think perhaps for the sake of plot, we didn't get to see Ron for the amazing heart, pluck, and wonder that he is in the rest of the series. He wasn't a bro with beer in the earlier installments; he was one of the greatest wizards in history—balancing his friendship with a prophetic child and a know-it-all diva. Hermione comes back in her full force, but some of her softness could have been exemplified. She also makes some incredibly naive moves that are unfitting for her, like her carelessness at handling a Time Turner. Draco on the other hand, comes back almost as a whole new character. Draco seems to have walked the path of redemption, and even though his character has the biggest departure from the past—it seems more believable than Ron and Hermione's growth.
What we were really missing was Luna Lovegood. There are no appearances of the fan-favorite, but perhaps there just wasn't time for her. Neville was a drop in the bucket as well, which is upsetting that these instrumental characters didn't seem as pertinent in the new universe. But we finally got more insight into Cedric Diggory, while we also didn't. The new play gives insight into a timeline that could have been for the young man, and also what never got to be. In the 5th Harry Potter book, The Order of the Phoenix, Harry's character goes dark as he deals with the death of Cedric, the ongoing battle with Voldemort, and the reign of Dolores Umbridge. We get a lot of Harry's introspection, but there's a lot about Cedric we never learn, and never truly can. The play finally brings clarity to how that death marked Harry into his adult years. And that's honestly what made the play special. The heart of Harry and how he treats others, how he knows when to make the right call even if it isn't in his best interest, and that he can love people with quiet heroism (which, apparently is what drew Ginny to him). If anything, this play proves more than anything just how special is Harry, regardless of a dark wizard bent on immortality to the point of time bending and Horcruxes. Harry's magic in this world has, and always will, be focused on love. He wanted to be loved, but often gets into circumstances where it isn't so easy from his stilted childhood with his Aunt and Uncle, to his classmates having no faith or trust in him, and now to his son feeling like he can't live up to the Potter name.
And honestly, Albus can't live up to Harry's name. Not even close. Albus is, like Harry said in a much kinder, gentler way, like his mother. She gets tricked in the 2nd book by Voldemort with the diary and her desire to have friends, but for some reason doesn't click with others. This doesn't entirely make sense due to her being so lovable, but for whatever reason she didn't connect with people like Harry did with his genuine charm with people. Harry connects well with people because of his compassionate heart—he is like Lily. Albus too struggles to make connections, is seen to isolate himself more than ever, and isn't necessarily gifted at magic either. Harry wants to remember his parents and names his children after them, and his greatest heroes—and even the portrait of Dumbledore thinks it's an odd choice for naming children.
Albus could never be as amazing as his father, and that's okay. They can still work things out and have a solid relationship. There shouldn't be an Albus Potter series, because frankly, the kid is way too... stupid. I felt the last portion of the play was trying to soften the blow of his devastating decisions and try to build him up on positive thinking. Harry wasn't trained this way, he was built to see reality for itself, and to help make the world a better place, to have a greater vision for the future.
Scorpius, Draco's son, is honestly a more interesting character. He is soft-hearted, intelligent, and friendly. It's like he has the best parts of Harry, Ron, and Hermione. What made the play unusual is that it can easily be read that Scorpius and Albus have feelings for each other. The friendship reads as being a little closer than platonic. Both end up having feelings for girls, and Albus in particular fancies... Voldemort's daughter. That's right. Voldemort's daughter. Harry Potter's son ends up fancying his two worst enemies ' children. Also, Albus ends up kissing his aunt Hermione after a polyjuice experiment. If you stop to think about some of the interactions in this play, it'll haunt you. Scorpius would honestly make for a more interesting series than following Albus... or the other Potter children.
Harry ends up proving himself as a good father. He built a home and structure for his kids that he never got. He gets to provide for them, he gets to love them, hold them, cherish them... and that's something his parents never got the full chance to do with him. The real story is honestly about Harry, not his son and his misadventures.
As for the cursed child, Delphi doesn't get to do much damage. She comes in looking for a way to get to her father that she never knew. In some ways, Harry can relate more to her than his son—because Delphi is an orphan. What these two people wanted was to connect with their parents. How this person could have gone under the radar for so long is utter madness. It's quite sad that she spent her whole life wanting to resurrect the greatest evil in the world twice over to be with family. The world abandoned her, and so she wanted a new world, run by her father. There is so much more that could have been done with this character. What is great about her plot to ruin the world, is that we get a chance to see Snape. When the children mess with the natural timeline, it brings back the Potions professor. Knowing his fate in the real timeline and through the children, the message that Harry is thankful for Snape gets through. And he is honored that he named his son after him though it is kind of weird if we stop and think about the fact that Harry named his children after his parents' love triangle. Quite baffling.
This story is meant for the stage, and there were some action descriptions throughout the script that were not clear. It would take a moment to understand what exactly was happening, and that's not the best writing. Of course, it is meant for the stage and so seeing it live might bring some clarity to those moments. The final showdown with Delphi—the action here was some of the weakest in all of the Harry Potter series showdowns. You never get the sense that she might win, you don't feel all that nervous for Potter and his friends, and you really kind of pity Delphi who definitely got the shorthand when it came to family at birth.
It was a great deal of fun to relive some of the past stories. Going back to the Triwizard Tournament brought back good memories of reading the original story. I loved getting to see Moaning Myrtle again—though, I would gladly pass her off for Luna. It was a nice homage to the Potter series, and there were a number of ripples to follow. The play did well to refresh the audience on what happened in the series in the past. You don't have to go back and read all the books to understand this play. You will find yourself cracking up at lines that sound strongly of innuendo—especially between Albus and Scorpius in the first two acts. From hugs, comments about fingertips, and the sort—it definitely sounds like they have more than a platonic interest after a very short while. There are some deliciously humorous moments, and it is as with the previous stories... something you will want to read through immediately.
I could have done more with some of the other characters—particularly Harry's other two children. A real appearance by Dumbledore was hinted at, but never given, which was also frustrating to endure. It would have been nice to have a moment with him, especially since we had Snape.
I think fair and square the best part of the entire play was the ending. I think this is Rowling's best ending for Potter. In fact, this was far better than the epilogue where book 7 left us. It's one of the most tender moments of the series—recognizing where Harry spends his free time, what he wishes could have been done, and the type of person he really is regardless of a war. I think this last scene tied up a great number of raised questions about who is Harry and what is he thinking from previous books. The sudden death of a student in Albus' school days wasn't the most felt while reading, in fact it really felt quite silly. But knowing how Potter really felt about Cedric —is worth the entire play.
This play comes much more from the perspective of Albus and his world, but it really shows that Albus could never live up to the shoes of Harry. And Albus must be at peace with that in order to have a good relationship with him.
© 2016 Andrea Lawrence