Passionate fans aren’t happy with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the new play that (we’re promised) concludes the story of The Boy Who Lived.
The script is a collaboration between J.K Rowling, playwright Jack Thorne and Cursed Child’s director John Tiffany, with the magic being brought to life at the Palace Theatre in the London West End. The release of the script was timed to coincide with the play’s opening, and naturally it has become a publishing sensation.
Unfortunately, some Muggles didn’t realize that Cursed Child is not a new novel, or a novelization of the play, but a play. Oops.
The action is set 19 years after Harry and pals defeated Lord Voldemort, and it revolves around Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy’s quest to go back in time to save Cedric Diggory. Why? Because the teenage Albus doesn’t get along with dad Harry, that’s why.
This immediately throws up problems, because time travel in Rowling’s universe has previously been a closed casual loop that can’t affect future events. Obviously, the Potterverse’s established time travel rules have been meddled with in order to allow the Cursed Child plot to exist.
And the desire to save Cedric is an unbelievable, weak motivation. It’s also surprising that Harry and young Albus don’t see eye to eye – in the epilogue to Deathly Hallows Harry seemed very attuned to his son. Other students harassing the boy because of his famous dad is pretty believable, but again, I’m left wondering: does Hogwarts have any anti-bullying policies at all?!
Albus has been sorted into Slytherin with Scorpius, who has his own troubles. Rumours persist that his frail mother Astoria traveled in time to get knocked up by Lord Voldemort, because Draco couldn’t continue the pure-blood Malfoy line.
Harry isn’t happy with the boys’ friendship, which again feels slightly unHarry, and more Ron, who seems way more bearable in the play than in the books or films. Ron is of course married to Hermione, who is now Minister for Magic.
The two boys get their hands on a time turner, and thanks to some encouragement from Cedric Diggory’s cousin Delphi Diggory – who initially seems like a bit of a minor, Tonks-type figure – Albus and Scorpius go back to the Triwizard Tournament to stop Cedric from winning with Harry and getting killed by Voldemort.
They succeed, only to discover that changing events means the future they return to is altered. Albus is now in Gryffindor and Hermione is an unmarried Hogwarts teacher. (This does seem a more apt destiny for Emma Watson, at least.)
The boys decide to go back again to put things right, but instead they make things even worse, ushering in a future where Voldy won and Umbridge is headteacher at Hogwarts. Harry Potter is dead, thus no Albus. Scorpius is in this mess all on his own.
This is the second act of the play, and it sees the return of Snape, who in this reality has continued with his potions teaching and his undercover work against the Death Eaters. He is joined in this latter pursuit by both Ron and Hermione, who are hiding as fugitives. Thanks to their help, Scorpius is able to put things right and go home.
This is where the play’s biggest twist occurs: Delphi is Voldemort’s daughter with Bellatrix Lestrange, and she wanted the boys to change history so that she wouldn’t have to be an orphan. Only now does she realize that entrusting her plan to two confused adolescents wasn’t the best idea.
A lot of fans balk at the thought of Voldemort and Bellatrix having a relationship, but seriously – Voldemort got rid of his nose, not his….er, other appendages. As for Bellatrix’s husband Rodolphus, I guess he would have had to be OK with it really, unless he wanted to die in a duel with his evil overlord.
People in the wizarding world certainly seem to think Voldemort was interested in and capable of getting some action. Voldemort may not have wanted an heir, but a child he would see as an extension of himself, a tool to be loyal and do his bidding. Only Voldy can live forever, but offspring could come and go and be faithful servants.
Still, Delphi feels awkwardly conceived, and her reveal isn’t shocking as we haven’t got to know her well. The role is badly underwritten, and the actress who plays her, Esther Smith, must be bringing a lot to the part for it work in terms of her manipulating Albus.
So I’m not completely against a Voldebaby, but perhaps that child should have been born around the same time period as Harry and the gang – a baby that would have been taken away when Bellatrix went to Azkaban. The child would have grown up and had a child, who is now at Hogwarts with Scorpius and Albus – and determined to resurrect grandpa.
And just maybe that child didn’t need to go bad. Poor Delphi. Like her father she grew up orphaned and unloved and is irredeemable. Neglected orphans are destined for evil, unless they’re Harry Potter.
And as if poor Harry hasn’t suffered enough, the play has him and the gang (plus Draco) finally save the day, forcing Harry to relive his parents’ deaths. Meanwhile, the memory of noble Cedric is corrupted – could humiliation really make him angry enough at the Wizarding World that he would become a Death Eater?
The script manages to be a compelling read, and there is plenty to enjoy. Scorpius is the most endearing character Potter has ever had, and Cursed Child is funnier than Rowling’s later novels – but I can get on board with fans’ disappointment. A script-book is no compensation for the magic glow of a new novel.
For now, I think seeing Harry, Ron and Hermione portrayed by a trio of real actors is worth the hassle and the cost of a ticket.