Few book series have so thoroughly defined a generation as J.K. Rowling’s saga of “the boy who lived.” From the opening lines of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in 1997 to the final “All was well” of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 2009, millions of kids have grown up alongside the young hero and his friends, learning what it means to be noble, selfless, and brave.
Simply stated, these stories became an integral part of their childhood. To many, Harry, Ron, and Hermione were not just favorite characters, but favorite imaginary playmates and friends. Hours were dedicated to daydreaming about what it would be like to go to Hogwarts and imagining the adventures the original trio’s children would have after the “19 years later” epilogue in Deathly Hallows. The world brought to life by J.K. Rowling’s pen became real in the minds of her readers.
When Rowling announced she was releasing the play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the fans of her books were ecstatic. Of course, there was apprehension—sequels to things you love rarely live up to the expectations you create—but to groupies who notably responded with excitement to a GIF of Daniel Radcliffe tying his shoelaces, any attempt to perpetuate the Potter legacy would be appreciated. And surely more canon material from the woman who wrote the beloved characters into existence couldn’t be too off-putting, could it?
Unfortunately, Rowling herself seems to have forgotten her characters in the seven years since the last book.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child reads more like angsty fanfiction than a return to the beloved wizarding world of her former novels. It focuses on the strained relationship between Harry and his son Albus and the consequences it has on their lives. While Rowling’s attempt at writing a theatrical drama as the sequel to an adventure series seems strange, it’s the least of the friction between the old and new.
The cast features an array of familiar characters who Rowling depicts in a disturbingly unfamiliar way. Most prominently, some of the twists the script takes with Hermione Granger seem to be at odds with her history. Without betraying too much of the story the reader might ask whether Hermione would have raised her daughter Rose to act in such a bigoted manner if she had stayed true to her character? Would she be so dependent on Ron? Would her riddles and hiding places be so laughably simple to unravel?
Due to the constraints of the medium, many characters central to the series had to be left out entirely. Neville Longbottom is only mentioned in passing while Luna Lovegood and the majority of the Weasley clan aren’t referred to at all. However, it’s refreshing to finally know what happened to Professor McGonagall, Draco Malfoy, Ginny Weasley, and the main trio.
Sadly, the greatest highlights of the play are lost by merely reading the script. Without traveling to London, you cannot fully experience the production’s astounding special effects or the director’s brilliant move to cast African American actress Noma Dumezweni as Hermione Granger.
To the avid devourer of all things Harry Potter, accepting The Cursed Child as canon may be frustrating, but to the casual reader, the script could be a fun trip back to childhood.