These are nostalgic times we live in. It has been nine years, nearly to the day, since the publication of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and the love that we bear for Harry Potter has not lost any of its childlike lustre. Memories of midnight release parties, shipping wars and casting news still echo across multiple generations, from the parents who read to their children to the young adults who grew up alongside the Golden Trio. We all rejoiced at the news that a continuation of the series was in the works, a play in London’s West End. The day that Harry Potter would have turned 36, the script became available for public purchase.
Having now read the script and taken a day to digest the material, I can say with complete certainty that The Cursed Child was absolutely horrendous. The visuals of the play are, by all accounts, flawless; however, it seems these special effects distract from the ludicrous nature of the plot. Time travel acts as the driving plot device behind an increasingly bizarre series of events, many of which rely on a callous disregard for the Harry Potter canon. To avoid spoilers, I will simply say this: the “time turner” entry on Pottermore, an encyclopaedic collection of canonical writings from Rowling, was quietly removed in anticipation of the play’s release. In a world without rules, it seems that anything is fair game.
Despite boasting her seal of approval, the script was not penned by Rowling but by longtime fan Jack Thorne. Thorne’s inability to reproduce Rowling’s characters is the play’s ultimate failing, as countless lines ring false when assigned to his poor imitations of Harry, Ron and Hermione. Ron in particular suffers in this new script as in the few scenes that feature him, he provides little more than comic relief, an incompetent buffoon who literally cannot hold his wand the correct way. The titular Harry Potter also rings false,as he wrestles with fatherhood in a pseudo-sententious manner, not befitting a boy who once yearned for proper parentage. The phrase “I wish you weren’t my son” stands out as a particularly egregious mischaracterisation of The Boy Who Lived.
The term “bad fan fiction” has appeared in many reviews of the script and I’m inclined to agree. Asinine plot twists and contrived coincidences mar any semblance of sanity that the script possesses. On multiple occasions, I laughed out loud at the ridiculous scenarios presented throughout the four acts, including a downright absurd scene of the Hogwarts Express Trolley Witch. Thorne’s plot is riddled with clunky dialogue and twists that would baffle even M. Night Shyamalan and, as a result, the climax lacks emotional investment on the part of the reader. There is only confusion, the constant question of how we arrived at this point.
The lone bright spot in this train wreck is Scorpius Malfoy. The son of Draco proves himself to be a far stronger character than the eponymous son of Potter. Soft-spoken and good-natured, he is the one character to feel like a true product of his circumstances, rather than a plot device to speak and act as the script commands it. His friendship with Albus felt genuine and the scenes they shared almost made the script worth reading.
Should you find yourself in London and in possession of the necessary funds, I would advise seeing the play. The script, while weak, contained numerous events that were so convoluted and so fantastical that I wondered, ‘How on earth could this happen on stage?’ As a technological masterpiece, The Cursed Child will rightfully embark on a successful run as an utterly revolutionary play. As a story, however, it deserves to be cast down alongside the foulest of fan fictions – for as I closed the cover of my recently purchased copy, I realised that the true cursed child could only be the reader of this script.