I was not going to review this (I still don’t really know that I’d call this a review). It’s been out in the world less than twenty-four hours, and already there is controversy surrounding it. Like many of you, I grew up with Harry Potter. I have been reading and rereading the books since I was ten (almost two-thirds of my life). I was the first one in line at the midnight release party to get my copy of The Deathly Hallows, and once spent eight hours sitting outside a theater to see The Order of the Phoenix at midnight. Harry Potter has been a huge part of my life, so when news came out that the script of The Cursed Child was being published, I met the news with both excitement and trepidation.
The Harry Potter books are probably the most widely read and well-loved works of fiction. Ever. (Don’t argue with me Tolkien fans – just check the number of Goodreads ratings.) The seven books in the series are brilliant, they wrap up nicely, and, as a whole, just feel very complete. Adding another story – one with many of the same characters – to the mix, particularly one that is both not a novel and not written by the Queen (J. K. Rowling), was bound to create some controversy.
Haters: I get it. Trust me, there were times while reading I couldn’t help but think that the dialogue just didn’t seem like Harry or Hermione or Ron. I don’t think we particularly needed this story. I personally don’t believe it added anything to the original seven books, and it did not change how I view anything in them. I completely agree that this probably shouldn’t have been marketed as the eighth book, because it’s not.
But I still loved it. And here’s why (WARNING: there are minor spoilers ahead – I did not spoil any of the major events, but I had to talk about something):
It brought back the characters we all know and love. This is where I get a bit frustrated with all the bad reviews claiming that “Draco would not do that!” and “Why is Harry like that?” Unlike the characters in the play, I am not in my forties. I am only twenty-seven. But I’m still an entirely different person than I was at seventeen (thank God). You’re telling me you want Draco to be a surly teenager under the influence of a very controlling father forever? Um, no thanks. I like some character development. And, okay, maybe we didn’t get to see Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and Draco all grow up and become parents and struggle with their jobs and their marriages, tc. But I’m capable of using my imagination here, and, if you’re a fan of Harry Potter, you should be able to, too. It’s exhausting being an asshole all the time (trust me) – don’t expect that from grown-up Draco. And Harry is dealing with a very difficult job and parenting three kids, you think he’s going to be perfect? No! That’s why I love these characters. THEY’RE NOT PERFECT. And we shouldn’t expect them to be. Because, otherwise, we wouldn’t have seen ourselves in them as children, and we wouldn’t be so attached to them now.
Even when I read the original series, I always thought Harry was kind of an idiot sometimes. He wasn’t stupid, but he was also very, very lucky, and had a lot of people supporting him. That hasn’t changed, even though he’s now being kind of an idiot at parenting instead of transfiguration. Hermione is still a badass, and I love the direction they took with her in the play. Ginny’s almost a mini-Molly, without the shrillness, which was really fun. I also enjoyed seeing the interactions between her and Harry as a married couple. Out of all the characters, Ron’s probably changed the least, but that was completely fine with me. And Draco – as previously mentioned – grew up and is dealing with less evil, but still difficult problems. I don’t want to give too much away about the kids, but I loved that they were both like their parents and not. It was a lot like how Harry was and wasn’t like James at Hogwarts.
As for the actual plot, I thought it seemed really organic (i.e. it’s something that could feasibly and realistically happen in these characters’ lives so many years later). I loved that it was a nod to the original series, but was ultimately a different story. It also felt epic on a scale that was totally appropriate for a stage play. Which brings me to my next point, which is that…
THIS IS A STAGE PLAY. Yes, the dialogue is going to be a bit exaggerated. And there is going to be A LOT of it. There isn’t much detail in the stage directions, which is typical for a play. And, while I greatly enjoyed reading it, it is something that is essentially meant to be seen, not read. So, even if Rowling herself had written it, I highly doubt it would read like one of her novels. A stage play is a different animal than a novel. It’s even different than a movie script. There isn’t room for drawn-out scenes or getting inside characters’ heads. Internal conflict is either mostly unclear, or spoken aloud somehow. Things have to be done differently for an audience. Dialogue must be exaggerated, because the person in the back row is probably not going to catch Ron’s raised eyebrow or Hermione’s eye roll.
Going into The Cursed Child expecting the eighth Harry Potter book is a recipe for disappointment. But if you want a really cool play featuring some of your favorite characters, that’s exactly what you’ll get. As a play, I thought it was great! And I’ve read quite a few plays (and not just the ones written by Shakespeare). I’ve also been to international theater festivals, and did stage management for a while in high school, so I have a decent theater background. So I’m not just saying it was a great play because Harry Potter. I thought the story it told was a great addition to the original series. It was more of a short story or novella in terms of plot and length, so don’t think you’re getting another Deathly Hallows. But for what it actually is, I loved it. I enjoyed the younger generation of characters, and where all the familiar characters ended up.
Have you read (or seen) The Cursed Child? What did you think?