Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

I really struggled with this review. Mostly because of JK Rowling’s #KeeptheSecrets initiative, designed to keep people who want to see the play but haven’t away from spoilers. So, what I’ve decided is this. In keeping with #KeeptheSecrets, the first bit is very general and totally spoiler-free. Then comes the spoiler kitten. After that, anything goes. We good, JK?

Having grown up with these characters, being in a room with Harry, Ron, and Hermione was…there’s no other word for it…magical. I honestly could’ve watched the three of them sit on a plane for six hours and would have been happy with it. Did I think the play was perfect? Of course not. Would I recommend flying across the world and spending thousands of dollars to go see it? No, that would be irresponsible. Am I glad I did that thing I’m not recommending you do? HELL YES. Now, okay, not all of that is the play. If I had flown to London, seen the play, then gotten right back on a plane, I would have felt cheated. But I really had a killer time in London. Sorry, tangent.

By far the play’s strongest assets are its Golden Trio (for the uninitiated, that’s Harry, Ron, and Hermione). They felt so consistent with their book counterparts. Every actor (I saw the original cast) so perfectly encapsulated their characters. There were no awkward “Hermione wouldn’t do that!” moments* (expanded upon in the spoiler section). The one exception to the wonderful acting may have been the character Delphi, who started out okay but by the end of the play was distractingly over the top.

Without spoiling anything, the effects ranged from “that’s cool but I totally see how they did that” to “NO WAY??!? HOW?????!!!” There’s even a scene that takes place in the lake. Like, UNDERWATER. I remember reading the script beforehand thinking that there was no way in hell they could pull off half of what was written. I’m happy to say I was wrong. One thing, though: there is way more interpretive dance than you are expecting in this show. No matter how much you are expecting, there is more.

I do recommend the script as a piece of literature, if you’re a Potter fan. If you’re not, give it a pass. The plot is fairly uninspired and the whimsy is missing in action without Rowling’s prose. Potterheads should definitely check it out if you haven’t already. You get to spend a few more hours with Harry, Ron, and Hermione and there are a couple of solid humor bits.


*(continued from above) There were moments when I felt like, Hermione wouldn’t do that or Professor McGonagall wouldn’t do that, or Cedric wouldn’t do that, but only in the alternate timelines. You can explain away their totally out of character behavior by saying the past has been changed and time travel can create unpredictable results but I refuse to believe Hermione could be cruel, McGonagall could allow herself to be dressed down by a former student, or that Cedric could kill anyone. By the way, this story features time travel and alternate timelines. Okay maybe at this point I should throw in a quick summary of the plot.

Basically, Harry and Ginny’s youngest son, the tragically named Albus Severus Potter, doesn’t really fit in with his family or at school (he was sorted into Slytherin!). His best friend is Draco Malfoy’s son Scorpius. The two get their hands on an illegal Time Turner (a device introduced in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban that allows the user to travel through time). They use their Time Turner to go back to try to save Cedric Diggory who was killed by Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Long story short, they make a total mess of things. They erase family members from existence, destroy relationships, and ultimately resurrect Voldemort. Well done, boys. That’s the first of two thirds of the show. Then it is revealed that Albus and Scorpius’s friend Delphi is Voldemort’s daughter and the entire Time Turner fiasco was masterminded by her in order that she be reunited with daddy dearest. Yeah, I know how stupid it sounds. Finally, after the earlier Time Turner mishaps were sorted out, Delphi goes back to the night Voldemort killed the Potters in order to stop him and save his life. The Potter-Granger-Weasley clan, now wise to what’s going on, follow her back in time to stop him. A final fight ensues, Delphi is defeated (as well she should be, one teenager/twenty something is no match for four adult wizards) and everyone goes back to the future, the end. This is the simplified version. Seriously. The story is…involved.

So as far as the story goes I have favorite little bits and pieces I cling to. For instance, Hermione is the Minister of Magic. Atta girl. Dudley Dursley and Harry remained in touch and Dudley sent him the blanket he was wrapped in when the Dursleys found him on their doorstep. Awww. Neville Longbottom’s importance in the Harry Potter saga is cemented when it is revealed that his death is what triggers the darkest timeline, the one where Voldemort won the war. That said, Neville doesn’t actually appear in the play which I found…irksome.


Aside from the few incidents previously mentioned, everyone felt very much in character throughout which had to be hard to achieve. Harry is still lazy about certain things (Divination homework has turned to Ministry paperwork) and still has a tendency to shout at people when emotional. Not a great characteristic, but one that’s been very consistent throughout the books. Deserving of special mention is Draco who still dislikes Harry but admits now that he was jealous of him and the friendships he had while they were in school. I also really loved Draco’s darkest timeline persona. In the world where Voldemort was defeated Malfoy was a good guy. In the world where Voldemort won he was…less of a good guy. That’s just the Malfoy way, isn’t it? Go with the flow. But less in a hippie dippy way and more in a purely ambitious way.

There were some characters who weren’t used to their full capacity. Ron was played entirely for comic relief. Now, in the books he was usually the one to relieve the tension but he also got important things to do. He played the chess board to get through to the Philosopher’s Stone, he saved Harry from the locket horcrux, he destroyed the locket horcrux, he was the only one who thought to try to get back into the Chamber of Secrets to destroy the rest of the horcruxes. Here, he’s just there for laughs. Ginny, too, is seriously lacking in things to do. She mostly nags Harry about his relationship with Albus and stands just behind him in group scenes, looking worried. She seems to be the logical continuation of movie Ginny, not the book Ginny I know and love.

A lot of people have issues with the idea that Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange had a daughter. It doesn’t bother me too much but I also feel the need to point out that there is no proof that Delphi is actually Tom Riddle’s daughter and not, say, an extremely disturbed girl. The only evidence that she may be related to him is that she and he share the talent of Parseltongue, the ability to speak to snakes. Now, Parseltongue is a rare ability, true, but it’s not exactly a DNA test. I seriously think Delphi is just a crazy person with delusions of grandeur.

One of my favorite parts was the darkest timeline bit where we got to see what would have happened if Voldemort had won the war. Umbridge is in charge of Hogwarts, which bothered me a bit (it should, logically, be Snape). But they have this cool handshake everyone does and they say “For Voldemort and Valor” which was kind of awesome and yet it bothered me that everyone used the name Voldemort when, in the books, it was sort of a huge deal to say it and few people ever did. But there were a bunch of cute bits from this part of the play. “Potter” was a swear word, there was a day celebrating the Battle of Hogwarts (Voldemort Day) and Hermione and Ron lived underground as freedom fighters. Watching Scorpius attempt to navigate the world all on his own (Albus had ceased to exist at this point) was hilarious. You know what? Scorpius was hilarious full stop. I loved him when I read the script but watching him on stage he was so…flamboyant is maybe the word. I just adored him. He felt like the weirdest combination of Hermione (mega-nerd) and Ron (blurts out whatever he’s thinking) with just a bit of Neville thrown in for good measure.

And now, more, spoilery details on cool effects!

- The best was every time the characters traveled through time, the whole stage kind of did this visual shudder that was amazing. The audience legitimately gasped.

- In the comedic highlight of the play, Albus, Scorpius, and Delphi take Polyjuice Potion to turn into Ron, Harry, and Hermione (respectively). The transformation was clearly done with trap doors but it was still an amazing bit of stage trickery.

- Delphi’s true identity is revealed by glow in the dark writing on the wall. As the characters discover this, the whole theater lights up, also covered in the same, heretofore invisible writing.

four out of four cursed children

sunbunny

4 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I'm not a Potter fan but this was a truly interesting read, sunbunny. Thanks for sharing your London theater experience with us.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with you that Ginny not doing much was very dissapointing. However, Ron not doing much was actually a standout of the book for me. It felt like character developement, he was still standing behind his friends, but he had left the part of his life behind where he felt like he could never live up to everyone else.

My main problem with the play was the third act, which felt like bad fanfiction. Aside from the whole "Delphi is actually the villain!" thing, it killed me that if she was really Voldemort's daughter, Bellatrix Lestrange would have given birth like five minutes before she showed up at the Battle of Hogwarts, and she actally would have been pregnant when Dobby dropped that chandelier on her at Malfoy Manor. That's not even getting into the whole "she cheated on her husband" thing.

I absolutely love the idea that Delphi is really just crazy! It would fill so many of the holes, and make the play so much better!

sunbunny said...

Thanks Anon, glad you liked my theory!

Tim Edwards said...

Great review, Subunny. I definitely agree that Delphi (named after the Greek oracle or "augury" I assume) was the weakest link. She started off ok but after her big reveal turned into a pantomime villain - way over the top and impossible to take seriously.
Otherwise I loved the play. The the adult leads were natural evolutions of the characters we know and love but twenty years older. The actor who played Harry was especially on the nose.
Also the relationship between Albus and Scorpious came across as genuine, convincing and touching.
There were some very poignant moments too, for example seeing Snape able to express his true persona and Cedric's moment with the boys in the maze.