by Hal Patnott
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child–Parts One and Two by J.K.Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne (Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine 2016)
Albus Severus Potter lives in the shadow of his father’s legacy. After the Sorting Hat places him in Slytherin, other students call him a failure, even his cousin Rose refuses to associate with him at school. Albus may look like his father, but the resemblance ends there. Scorpius Malfoy, Albus’s best and only friend, also struggles to escape his family’s reputation. Rumors that Scorpius is the son of Voldemort rather than Draco haunt him. Both Albus and Scorpius feel “spare,” and it is that dark thought that sends them plunging into the past.
A familiar cast of characters return to the stage in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Fans of the original seven books get a glimpse of how a life post-Voldemort has changed the old heroes. The importance of family and friendship remain central to the story as they were in past Potter adventures. Harry grapples with his relationship with his Albus Severus. Ginny tells him, “Harry, you’d do anything for anybody. You were pretty happy to sacrifice yourself for the world. [Albus] needs to feel specific love. It’ll make him stronger, and you stronger too” (277). Saving the world never guaranteed he would excel as a parent.
Although nostalgia will draw a huge audience to Cursed Child, the script relies on readers’ prior knowledge of characters and events from the book series, particularly the Triwizard Tournament from Harry’s fourth year. The plot suffers from a fixation with the past. Time jumps rapidly from scene to scene. In the opening of the play Harry and Ginny are dropping off Albus at Platform Nine-and-three-quarters for his first year at Hogwarts. This scene corresponds to the epilogue of Deathly Hallows, though the order of events and the dialogue are inconsistent between the two texts. By the tenth scene of the play, Albus is already entering his fourth year; we don’t have a chance to get to know him or Scorpius. Readers witness only flashes of their, apparently bitter, experiences at Hogwarts. The other students also lack much introduction or depth of character. Ultimately, when one of the new characters, a student in Albus’s year, dies in a manner reminiscent of Cedric Diggory’s murder, the emotional significance falls flat. Perhaps this episodic approach works better as a live stage production, which is how it was originally conceived and is presented here, and perhaps it isn’t fair to evaluate this as a narrative like its predecessors. But overall, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child adds little as a new installment to the Harry Potter series. The popularity of the original series demands its presence on library shelves, but by comparison it’s a spare.