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This is a review of the actual stage play of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, not the screenplay.
``Happy Birthday`` said my wife, ``you are going to see Harry Potter!``. She said this to me a year ago, and it's only yesterday did the tickets come into force and I got to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. So I guess that covers two birthdays. I didn't think much of the published script, but people have assured me that seeing the thing in reality is a whole different experience to that of reading some glorified, risk free fan-fic. I'm now happy to confirm they are mostly correct.
Even from my seat, which was about a kilometre from the stage and hidden up in the upper right corner of a very tall theatre, this show is a feast for the eyes. This is the most technically impressive play I've ever seen, crammed full of clever sets, sleight of hand, trapdoors, wirework and goddamn flamethrowers. Every gimmick is on show in Harry Potter, and call me simple to please, but this seems to make all the difference. Whatever weaknesses there are in the stage play, its easy to be distracted from them by the sight of a full sized man disappearing into the coin slot of a phonebox, right before your eyes.
This play is in two parts, and the first one ends on a really strong point by scaring the shit out of every kid in the audience. I watched both halves in the same day and by the fourth hour, it was wearing out its welcome. The magic tapers off and is replaced by melodrama, do much melodrama! Too much of this play is devoted to exploring the fraught father-son relationship between its protagonist - Albus Potter, and his dad, Harry. Seeing a boy having to live in the shadow of his father's celebrity? Interesting. Seeing it for four hours? No. There is a plot involving time machines and clichéd time-travel shenanigans, but all of that is in service of allowing awkward family bonding sessions, or soap opera style rows. Even the climactic, firey finale is followed by three separate bonding epilogue scenes. It's like watching Return of the King, where the thing keeps coming to a natural closure, only to bring in yet more assholes with something to say.
The play has three basic themes; Love, family, friends, and it'll use every last minute to ram it down your throat. It all comes across as kind of cheesy. And hammy too; when the villains are revealed, they do it in full pantomime villain mode. Even before we get to that point, there's lots of fannying around, dancing and whimsy, and it looks a bit too Disney for the franchise.
Harry Potter is impressive and exciting experience that is worth the admission and really long wait. But the weaknesses in script do eventually creep through into the overall experience. I had a good time, but judging by all the phone screens I could see amongst the rest of the audience, it was too long a time for everyone, me included.
(Note that this is a review of the published script released on July 31 and not of the stage play.)
This script was poorly-written garbage full of plot holes and Pandering to the Base. The story is nothing but fanfic cliches. "Harry's son is sorted into Slytherin and gets bullied and goes all angsty and befriends Draco's son and then he steals a time-turner to prove himself by saving Cedric back in book 4, and then you'll never guess what happens! You'll never guess! Oh yeah, and also Voldemort and Bellatrix have a daughter with silvery hair and fishnets who acts perky and bubbly before revealing herself to be a totally 100% eeeeeeeviiiiiiil villain with absolutely no character depth whatsoever.
Even more insulting is the shameless pandering of briefly reviving Snape with time travel purely so everyone can reiterate what a great person he was, as if book 7 hadn't hammered that in already. Yeah, we totally need more screentime for Snape while characters like Hagrid are barely even in this play. Oh yeah, and in case you were wondering where Lupin and Tonks's son is, he's not in this play because he wasn't in the movie version and therefore the audience wouldn't know who he is, obviously.
The only decent part was Scorpius Malfoy, who was basically a well-written character trapped in a shitty fanfic (His name's still stupid, though). Just don't expect him to hook up with Albus despite the dripping subtext, though, since a scene is included to make it absolutely clear that he's totally into Rose despite barely interacting with her at all.
I did have a good time reading this script, but only because I was laughing my pants off at the So Bad, It's Good stuff like the time-travel plot, the trolley lady being badass, the audacity of Scorpius time traveling to when Snape was alive and running up to him and yelling, "I KNOW YOU WERE IN LOVE WITH MY GRANDMA!", and, of course, the entire concept of "ruining Voldemort Day."
But then there had to go and be some needlessly creepy parts, too, like Albus polyjuicing himself into Ron and then making out with Hermione. Scorpius considers giving him a high-five for it. Hermione's molested by her own nephew-in-law, and it's treated as a joke. And then there's the bullshit where Albus is unpopular at school, and Ron gives him a love potion to give himself a girlfriend. (Though to be fair, the love potion rape issue is in the original books, too).
I'm hearing people say that the live performance improves the script solely on the merits of the actors and the special effects. Bullshit. A good manuscript can hold up on its own. Besides, this script's dialogue was often unnatural and stiff, and I really can't imagine anyone delivering it naturally.
Aaaaaaand I'm mentally considering this play non-canon in three... two... one... Poof. Gone from my headcanon.
This is a review of the book of the stage play of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, not the actual play.
Book 8 takes place a good twenty odd years after the last book. Voldemort is dead and Harry is a has been with a ministry job.His kid has gone to school, and he's a Slytherin. From this premise, ‘’Harry Potter’’ could go absolutely anywhere. Where it does go is straight back to where it started.
This is a story about time travel. Harry’s kid Albus steals a time machine to go back nearly 30 years to stop one of Harry Potter’s classmates being murdered. As with every time travel story, it doesn’t go according to plan. And that’s the story’s biggest problem. It is a clichéd, run-of-the-mill time travel plot that goes through the motions, showing us alternative timelines were everything is horrible, people end up kissing their mums, and most importantly, the whole thing comes pre-guaranteed to rap itself up by the end because alternate time travel universes can go as easily as they come. Furthermore, almost the entire story takes place in locations we have already seen with characters we already know from the books. If you were someone with no familiarity with the series, you’d have absolutely no idea what is going on. If you are familiar with the series, you’ll be annoyed that this hasn’t tried anything new nor taken any risks. It is cloyingly loyal to the books. It is a Hufflepuff.
On top of that, we’ve not got any particularly compelling characters. Harry Potter in the books could get away with being a bit of a bland creation, because he worked as a self-insertion character for the reader. This time, Harry’s son Albus is a blank slate but not one we particularly want to inscribe ourselves onto because much of the time he is doing something idiotic. It would have been nice to see the setting from a Slytherin’s perspective, but it doesn’t feel like that is the case at all reading it – which only goes to show how bullshit the house system has always been in the series. ‘’Harry Potter’’ was always a piece of escapism to a simpler time of Enid Blyton child adventures, 1940s boarding school hi-jinks, midnight feasts and steam trains. Within that breezy, whimsical format, you can overlook the heaps of plot holes the magical setting fails to resolve. But as the series has grown more self-serious, those flaws draw more attention to themselves. It feels like Harry Potter 8 wants to address at least a couple of the most widely quoted ones (“Why not solve every problem with a time turner” and “why was Dumbledore so criminally negligent during Harry’s upbringing?”) but utterly fails to do so without just making more problems.
I can’t say anything about the quality of the show itself. I am told it really is a sight to behold and that I shouldn’t just go on the script. If that is the case, this is a show that must work purely as a spectacle, because it just doesn’t bloody work on paper.
The most important thing to remember when talking about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is that it's good! It's full of things to pick at and any conversation is going to end up griping about the many oddities and mistakes, but at the end of the day this was a book I read in one sitting because I didn't want to stop.
The second thing to remember is that a play script is not a book. Plays are always less subtle, the audience has to do more work just to follow the plot on stage.
But The Cursed Child is fanfiction, not in a completely derogatory way, but because its existence is purely to comment on and react to the original seven stories. Emotional payoffs are payoffs to desires and cravings created in the fanbase by the ending of the 'true' series. If you've ever found yourself thinking "I wish that character had had a chance to say what they felt to Harry", well Cursed Child will give you that. If you adore Ginny and want to see her and Harry again and get more of what they have together, Cursed Child will give you that. If you want some niggling plotholes from the series swept up, Cursed Child does that (and creates a dozen more).
For the most part, it's good fanservice. The story is engaging, it shows a side of our favourite characters that we've always wanted to see (although Luna is criminally absent and it's inevitable that you won't see enough of most of your favourite characters). For the most part it doesn't do anything new, but it confirms the subtext we all knew was there in gratifying ways.
In the negative column, timetravel stories are already played out, and time travel stories involving going back to revisit events from the proper books are even more played out. Cursed Child's timetravel fails to meet even those standards. Timetravel was one of the worst things in the original books and bringing it back was picking at a scab.
And it has one moment of some of the stupidest writing I've ever seen. I won't spoil it, but it involves Cedric Diggory and it's practically blasphemous to his character and in a story which is theoretically meant to be honouring him as a person.
Generally the themes fall pretty flat and don't feel genuine in the plot. 'Friendship is Magic' feels weak after the much more complicated musings on heroism and virtue in Harry and Dumbledore's endings in Deathly Hallows. And even then we don't need characters literally saying "I never fight alone!". Draco feels like he's accidentally cribbing from his Leather Pants Trope page!
But there is a gem of real story in here too. The children are real unique characters, not reflections of their parents. Harry's relationship with Albus Severus is terrifyingly real and will leave many a young parent in cold sweats. The Harry Potter world is expanded in a genuine and quirky way, with all the right names and weird things. It has a tinge of grown-up too. I love the way Harry and Ginny cast Lumos when one is having a rough nights sleep.
Ready, enjoy, stop.
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