I’m supposed to be on a book amnesty, I’ve told my boyfriend that I’m not buying anymore books for a while. But then I saw The Cursed Child the moment I walked into the supermarket and my words, I kid you not, were “I don’t care, I’m getting this”. In the basket it went with no guilt at all. I ignored my boyfriend on the way home to that I could read it, also with no guilt at all.
Before we get to the review, I’ll give you a warning. There will be some major spoilers, but they’re going to be beneath the big spoiler alert, so don’t scroll passed there. The first chunk will be spoiler free I promise.
The story starts where The Deathly Hallows Part 2 left off – Platform 9¾ and it’s Albus Severus Potter’s first year at Hogwarts. We don’t spend much time there, and before long it’s his third year. He and Scorpius Malfoy are best mates and outcasts from the rest of the school, but both for different reasons.
The play is one of friendship and love, as indeed the original stories are and there’s the desire to prove oneself to everyone else, or even just your father. The first half of the play if full of magic and setting up of the main story, but it’s done with drama and is so well crafted that even without description you get a true feeling for the characters.
The second half is full of world changing turmoil and brings out the true heart of the story.
Remember how absolutely everything in Harry Potter has a deep meaning, or second meaning, sometimes even the word ‘and’ is pivotal. I thought for a while that this was something the play was lacking, but when the overall message of the play hits you, it hits you hard and you realise all the connections, all the signals and reactions. It’s, for the most part, as brilliant as the original series.
Without spoilering it for people, there is a moment where I found I had to suspend belief. Having to do that with a Harry Potter story, I found, was an annoyance and it sort of made the action side of the plot fall a little limp for me. It did allow the message of the story hit home (again, can’t really say what the story is without major spoilers) and it was a brilliant way to do it. But I think the same thing, or very nearly the same thing but with the same results, could have been done better and not felt a bit meh and from way out of left field even for Harry Potter.
Having said that, if there was a back story that could explain that thing very well, I’d probably feel differently about it.
Now, I really cannot speak anymore without talking about the nitty gritty, or even really the beefy bits, without telling you what happens. So…
Do I like the play? Yes. And I’ll be reading it again once my younger brother has got his hopefully-not-grubby hands off it. It’s full of heart, love and friendship. Do I want to see the play? Hell yes. If Bertie Botts did sweets that made you feel a certain way, I’ll turn into a box of jealousy when someone pops up in the comments saying they’ve seen it or have tickets.
There really isn’t anything else I can say about it, without giving anything away so…
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. ALL WHO GO BEYOND THIS LINE WHO DO NOT WISH TO SEE SPOILERS WILL AND IT WILL BE ENTIRELY THEIR OWN FAULT. REALLY, IF YOU DON’T WAN TO SEE SPOILERS, SCROLL THE HELL BACK UP NOW.
That thing I was on about that made me have to suspend belief shall be explained in a minute, first, here’s the basic plot.
Albus is sorted into Slytherin (shock horror for the wizarding world, even Rose Granger-Weasley stops talking to him) and becomes friends with Scorpius who is marginalised because there’s a rumour that he’s Voldemort’s child. The thinking of other witches and wizards here is that his father, Draco, is infertile and his mother, Astoria, went back in time and got jiggy with the Dark Lord. Fortunately, not true. I probably would have put the book down if it had been. Not kidding.
They are both extremely unhappy teenagers and neither want to be at Hogwarts. Albus overhears his dad talking to Amos Diggory (Cedric’s dad) about there being an illegal time turner and how Harry should go back and save Cedric because he was never supposed to die, having nothing to do with Voldemort. Harry, quite sensibly, refuses. Albus gets angry at his dad the next day, and aboard the Hogwarts express to begin his third year, he decides to go save Cedric himself and persuades Scorpius to tag along.
They do manage to go back in time only to discover that the time turner is a new type that only lets you stay in the past for five minutes before it drags you back to where it should be. So, they manage to screw the world up completely over the course of a couple of trips back in time. So badly in fact that in this alternate reality Voldemort wins the wizarding war. Harry’s dead (no Potter children), Ron and Hermione aren’t married (no Granger-Weasley kids either), the Order of the Phoenix is all but destroyed, but Snape is still alive (yes!). Scorpius is left to fix the mess, which he does.
These scenes in the alternate reality bring about darkness which in some way trump the darkness in the original series. A world where Voldemort is in charge, where muggles are routinely killed, mudbloods are tortured in the corridors and a Slytherin girl complains about having a mudblood’s blood on her shoes. In this version of the future Snape is still spying and still potion’s professor, Hermione and Ron (not married) are in hiding and Hermione is the most wanted person on the planet.
Scorpius meets up with them and after the most brilliant line of “How very irritating” (thank you Severus Snape, it’s my new favourite line in the Harry Potter world followed closely by “Page 394”) he, along with Ron, Hermione and Snape manages to set the world back to rights. They all have to sacrifice themselves to the Dementors to do it, but they do it anyway knowing that there is a better world out there for everyone if they help him. Snape lets his soul be sucked out even though he knows he’s dead in the world he’s helping to bring back because J.K.R apparently doesn’t know when to stop tugging at the heartstrings.
And you’d think that would be the end. Scorpius has set the world back to rights, Albus is alive, Harry’s alive, Ron and Hermione are married and have Rose and Hugo.
But it’s not.
Which is good because otherwise I would have been disappointed.
See, throughout this, Harry’s scar has been hurting and we all know Voldemort is directly linked to that scar.
The thing is Delphi isn’t a good guy like she seems. She’s on a mission to bring Voldemort back because of a prophecy she’s directly linked to. She heard how Albus and Scorpius made her desired future come true and she takes matters into her own hands to get Cedric dead so the prophecy fulfils itself. I should probably also point out that Cedric is directly linked to the prophecy because it surrounds “the spare” which is what Voldemort called him the night he was brought back.
Scorpius and Malfoy get dragged along through time with her and this time they go to the maze challenge of the Triwizard Tournament and Cedric saves them thinking that freeing them is one of the mazes challenges and time plays out at it should do. So, Delphi has to make sure Voldemort survives the war some other way and what better way than him not dying in Godric’s Hollow? If Voldemort doesn’t die in Godric’s Hollow, he’ll gain power and the first wizarding war will be lost.
Anyway, at some point in this last chunk of the story, we find out that Delphi, and here’s what jars, is Voldemort’s daughter and Bellatrix is her mum and she was born the night before the Battle of Hogwarts.
Uh huh. Really? See what I mean about suspending belief? I guess Voldemort wanted heirs to be lieutenants and under lords of his or whatever, but born the night before battle and Bellatrix being her mum… It seems too easily convenient for me. Or like Rowling’s been reading too many FanFictions. I paused for a while trying to decide how I felt about this, decided I didn’t really like it too much for how convenient it was, accepted it and then continued reading.
But this is the crux of the overall message of the story which is: what would you do for the people you love?
Albus and Scorpius start wanting to prove who they are to the wizarding world, but ultimately to their fathers. Their fathers in turn do everything they can to get their son back and realise the mistakes they’ve made along the way. Draco and Harry also strike up some sort of tentative friendship and Draco even says he likes being bossed around by Hermione.
There is also the story of how far friends will go for one another. Albus is the leader out of the two of them, but Scorpius is the one who has to fix the huge mess they’ve created.
Delphi is willing to plunge the world into darkness just to see her father.
Both Albus and Scorpius tell her they’re willing to die so that she doesn’t succeed.
All of this creates a message which is at the heart of the story, but the true depth of the message is only revealed in the last few pages of the play. Those completely gripping last few pages, I will leave to you to read and get caught up in.
What I have to keep something secret, don’t I?
Another thought I had whilst reading it is: Delhpi. In Ancient Greece Delphi was the seat of the Pythia, a woman who was consulted on all major decisions – war, politics, new colonies etc. – before they were made as she was, supposedly, a seer. All sounds great, but really I know this from Karen Chance’s Cassandra Palmer novels. Anyway, as soon as I saw the name Delphi, my mind went to Karen Chance’s books and time travel. Again, Rowling has worked her magic with everything having a second meaning. Delphi is the one who plants it in Amos Diggory’s head that someone should go back in time and save Cedric, she’s the one who is in the new prophecy.
Unfortunately, Ron is a bit of a spare in this story. He’s great when he’s being a goofy dad and a loyal Gryffindor. The rest of his lines all seemed to fall flat and felt rather immature or like the writers didn’t know what to do with him or weren’t sure who he’d grown up to be. It could be argued that that’s how he was in the books with the exception of the chess tournament he played in The Philosopher’s Stone and the odd emotional outburst that had some Gryffindor loyalty to it, him being jealous at Harry, that moment with the deluminator and getting into the Chamber of Secrets in The Deathly Hallows. I really hoped that Ron would have a more mature and important role in this, but really, as much as I love him as the emotional outburst type of the so called “Golden Trio”, he’s once again a throw away character that the plot would do perfectly well without.
I’d definitely be interested to see it on stage, even if only to see how all the magic is done (I’ve heard it’s rather something special). When you’re reading it, bear in mind that it’s a script. One of the early scenes is a montage scene… think of it as a bit of a time lapse with a few moments in focus and the rest speeding on ahead, so bits will feel rough and raw, but it’s supposed to be like that. Get passed that long montage, and the rest of it is easy to read and imagine.
Tell me what you think of it once you’ve read it or, if you’re lucky enough, seen it.