Based on an original new story by JK Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne
*The review contains mild spoilers*
To be honest, I have no rights, whatsoever, to judge or review anything Rowling writes. Some of the brightest memories of my childhood involve the three eponymous characters she created. Ron was the kind of goofy, free flowing jock I always wanted for a best friend. Harry was the brave, selfless albeit slightly boring and headstrong protagonist that I aspired to become. And Hermione was well Hermione. The bushy haired nerd who wanted to come first in everything was the one I related to most. And boy, was she attractive.
So, it is only natural that I, like many others in my generation, feel a certain possessiveness towards these characters. That possessiveness extends to the actors who portrayed them on screen as well. To this date, I actively make it a point to see anything Dan, Emma and Rupert have been in. Speaking of which, if possible, do watch Swiss Army Man starring Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe playing a corpse who farts. It is hilarious. Therefore, when Rowling announced that an eighth Harry Potter story is coming, that too in the form of a play, I met it with a certain amount of trepidation and skepticism. And as Ginny, in this book, says :
People always look when you three are together. And apart. People always look at you.
Review : The book starts off at exactly the same point where The Deathly Hallows had left us. It has been nineteen years. Harry and Ginny have come to send off their second born son Albus Severus Potter to Hogwarts for the first time. So have Ron and Hermione. Their daughter Rose too is ready for Hogwarts. Hermione has become the Minister of Magic, Ron runs the joke shop, Harry is the head of the of the Magical Law Enforcement and Ginny is the sports editor of The Daily Prophet. Everything is all too perfect, but only it isn’t.
The book flash forwards through Albus’ school life : long time readers of Rowling may well feel cheated as they will miss the intricate world building we loved so much about the Potter novels. But remember this is for a play (which btw, has received unanimous critical applause) and Jack Thorne (the director of the play and writer of the script) does remarkably well in building a story line with far mature and darker undertones while remaining true to the characters.
Scorpius Malfoy : the son of Draco and Astoria is the single best character of this play. Albus becomes friends with him on the Hogwarts Express while sharing chocolates evoking memories of how Ron, Harry and Hermione met on the train for the first time. A friendship that causes him to lose his relationship with Rose It is all downhill from there for Albus though. He gets sorted into Slytherin, he is horrible at Quidditch and not too good in Potions. He bears the burden of the names he never wanted and becomes increasingly distant from everyone in Hogwarts and his family. Harry, never too good at office work himself, is very bad at expressing emotions and being a father in general. His over protectiveness alienates his son farther from him. And even though we can see that Albus, with those same green eyes and outsider struggle is far more closer to the Harry we knew than his other son James or daughter Lily (both of whom are in Gryffindor, btw), he himself never sees that. That relation is broken beyond repair. The only thing that keeps him going is his friendship with Scorpius who himself is not without problem. The meek, yet lovable, kind geek is absolutely antithesis to the Draco we knew. But who knows? We never could know Draco more than the proud front he put up. Scorpius’ mother dies and there are rumors that he is not Draco’s son but of the Dark Lord’s. Voldemort’s son.
The real adventure begins in the fourth year : when Albus and Scorpius do something that lets us relive the Triwizard competition. Add to it glimpses of alternate realities and harrowing ones at the same time : this period is probably slightly tone deaf for readers. The magic in writing is missing in these parts, but I am sure they will make for spectacular viewing on stage. As an added bonus we get insights into the minds of Harry, Dumbledore, Draco,Voldemort and even Petunia on the way. Hermione has her own share of time to shine, both as the Minister of Magic as well as in some of the alternate realities but Ron is a bit of an afterthought ; sidelined to the role of a comic relief which is, frankly, disappointing.
What sets ‘Cursed Child’ apart is the way Harry’s traumatic youth is punctured in. We get to see the Sisyphus like burden Harry himself has to carry all the time : all the deaths from his mother to Cedric haunt him. The name Potter is not just a burden for Albus it is a burden for Harry as well something which James and Lily (Harry’s other two children) never understand as things come too easily for them. There is a rushed villain and there is a predictable outcome , but those are just trifle distractions shadowing the main conflict : a very personal father and son one.
And at some point, in some alternate reality where Voldemort rules, where mudbloods are killed for fun, where Draco Malfoy is the head of the Magical Law Enforcement, where Dolores Umbridge is the principal of Hogwarts and where the poor, nerdy, kind Scorpius is known as King Scorpius (half blood students think it is a privilege to do his homework for him), our very own Scorpius arrives and he says : “The world changes and we change with it. I am better off in this world. But the world is not better. And I don’t want that.” This was the point at which I knew that the magic was alive. That the boy who lived lives through us. And, by Dumbledore, it is still difficult to read about Hermione kissing Ron without feeling a stab in my heart.