Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed ChildJohn Tiffany & Jack Thorne adapt J.K. Rowling’s new Potter story for the stage and it’s a script full of growing pains, parentage, old wounds, shifting loyalties and a healthy dose of magic & time travel.  Harry Potter and the Cursed Child happily reintroduces all the elements we recognise from the past and infuses it with dual story lines of children standing in the shadow of famous parents and parents grappling with their adulthood.

Without going into too much detail on what this story is about, it’s 19 years since Harry and his Scooby gang dispensed with Lord Voldemort at the Battle of Hogwarts. Since then he’s now married to Ginny Weasley and is the father of three children – James, Lily and Albus. Harry works in the Ministry Of Magic and, whilst all is well with him, his wife, James and Lily, it’s 11 year old Albus that is drifting further away from him.

Meanwhile widowed father Draco Malfoy’s only son Scorpios, also 11, is socially alienated. Plagued by rumour and innuendo on his parentage, he and Albus become fast friends when Potter confides that he, too, stands in the shadow of his father. When they both wind up sorted into House Slytherin, the pair become inseparable yet isolated from the rest of the student body.

As the years melt away to Albus at 14, we find the relationship between him and his father almost hostile. Teen angst collides with parental frustration which sees an opportunity for Albus to do something he can be greater than his father at and also prove him wrong. This all begins to happen just as Harry’s scar starts to hurt once again… Could he who must not be named rise once more?

Thematically, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a rich tapestry and paints quite a complex picture as it riffs on growing up in the shadow of ‘celebrity’ whilst also tackling how important friendship is to people. Loss, grief and blame also come through strongly with the most dynamic elements shown through the Draco Malfoy subplot.

The strong insistence of showing all the characters’ (old and new) flaws gives a nicer level of depth to proceedings whilst never shying away from this being a Harry Potter story. There’s some very strong adult drama going on here with the clashes between Harry and Albus, Harry and Draco, Albus and Scorpios all very meaty for an all ages audiences.

Whilst this is written for the stage and some of the dialogue might seem ‘stagy’ in sequences, much care is taken to keep the sense of peril throughout. Whilst you could easily pick apart the time turning elements at play (time travel is a very murky playground to delve into), they do so to service the central through line – will changing the past really fix everything?

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a page turning read, this author devoured it in 3 hours and I’m sure that many people have done the same. You’ll welcome back some of your most beloved characters and be warmly impressed by the treatment of those whom were former enemies. To see it on stage (given how technically ambitious this script is) would be suitably stunning and, if not, the eventual film adaptation would be just as impressive.

The best thing about this is that neither J.K. Rowling’s source nor its adapters treat the reader like a juvenile. They respect that we have all grown up with this franchise and don’t fear to tread into darker territories which makes Harry Potter and the Cursed Child all the better for it.