There are always complaints voiced when books are adapted to films. The omission of valued scenes is an inevitable, albeit necessary, part of the transformation process. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, however, potentially promised a solution to all this. Instead, J. K. Rowling and Jack Thorne offer fans a shell of a Harry Potter adventure: one that lacks real ingenuity and creativity, and relies heavily on an existing fan base.
The opening of the play seems promising, as references to the books (and homages to sadly unseen characters) bring with them a wave of nostalgia to fans. As the play continues, however, a shambolic plot and clumsy writing turn Cursed Child into a play that feels like an injustice to Rowling’s original fans, as it dangerously encroaches on the stories they know and love.
There are major issues within Jack Thorne’s script. The writing is far too simplistic, lacking depth and any real character. Almost paradoxically, Thorne also has tried to do too much. Albus’s first three years at Hogwarts are condensed into one scene, as he goes to great lengths to show that Albus is nothing like his father. The dialogue struggles with its awkward humour and stagnant conversation, lost within the confusing plot that engulfs it. The only aspect that feels true to Rowling’s original style is the detailed stage directions given, which of course would be lost to those viewing the play.
Those who say that the script is nothing more than a piece of fan fiction are absolutely right. It’s as if Rowling and Thorne sat down and looked at all the possible “What if…?” scenarios that fans have come up with over the years. Along with some other incredulous decisions, the fact that they go with an Inception-style time-travel story, arguably the most generic plot that comes with sequels, is utterly disappointing.
The most underwhelming aspect of the script is how heavily it depends on the original stories to succeed. In the play, Albus struggles under the magnitude of his father’s legacy: and yet, the whole story centres on Harry’s own time at Hogwarts. Once more, the peacetime suggested by the final lines of Deathly Hallows is immediately ruptured with mentions of Voldemort and, unsurprisingly, Harry’s scar hurting again. Even the most exciting parts of the script lack originality. The ‘Riddle Scene’ that closes act one is thrilling, and is reminiscent of the wonderful riddles Harry and co. encountered in the novels. Still, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.
All things aside, there are some positive moments. While the original trio are shadows of their younger selves, the Malfoy family shines. Scorpius is a welcome ally to Albus, and his loyalty to the young Potter is as strong as Harry, Ron and Hermione’s own relationship.
Considering the play is to be seen and not read, it is understandable why show-goers have given the play such positive reviews. Seeing the return of beloved characters, past and present, as well as the emotional rollercoaster that is the final Act, of course have been a hit with Potter fans. Even those sceptical to the play’s release will find themselves welling up as the play reaches its heart wrenching climax.
Unfortunately, not everyone will be lucky enough to see the story come to life on stage. Once more, given all its overwhelming faults, the dissatisfaction that Cursed Child has brought so many raises the question as to whether Rowling was right in returning to Harry’s world at all. Whatever the answer may be, as Scorpius rightfully says, “It’s time that time-turning became a thing of the past”.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, written by Jack Thorne, an original story by J. K. Rowling (Little Brown and Company)
Photo credit: © Tom Blunt