Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Author: Jack Thorne
Series: Harry Potter, #8
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Release Date: July 31st 2016
I tentatively include the label “Harry Potter, #8” for this play in the description above because ever since I heard there was going to be an eighth Harry Potter story, I’ve been wary of what to call it. I’m typically not a fan of “extras” after a series has ended. I usually regard these additions as optional canon because I feel most of the time it’s better for an author to leave well enough alone. So I approached Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in a different way, not as canon, but as a neat little “extra” that at the end of the day, I don’t necessarily have to consider a part of the Harry Potter universe. From the get-go, the play interfered with the headcanons I’ve created since the series ended. I’ve created futures for these characters and how their relationships have evolved and had a knee-jerk reaction to a particularly salty interaction between two characters at the beginning of the play. It was from this moment forward that I knew I wasn’t going to call this canon Harry Potter, but instead of focusing on the various aspects of the novel I couldn’t quite reconcile with my own thoughts on the HP world, I sat back and enjoyed the ride.
The focus of this play is Harry’s tumultuous relationship with his youngest son Albus. Uncomfortable with the extra attention that comes with being Harry Potter’s son, Albus feels like he’s destined to be a disappointment. He struggles with his identity throughout the story and because his father’s shadow looms large, it’s difficult for him to discover who he is apart from the legacy of his father. While I sympathized with Albus’ inner struggles, it was hard to find him entirely likable as he tended to indulge in self-pity at the detriment of other people’s own struggles. Harry finds it difficult to connect with Albus, who doesn’t seem to want anything to do with the famous Harry Potter, and this is where their relationship gets off track. It’s become almost impossible for Albus to separate how everyone perceives his father from who Harry actually is and Harry can’t understand the loneliness and social shunning Albus has endured at Hogwarts when his own view of the school is seen through a lens of idyllic nostalgia.
Of the secondary characters we are first introduced to, no one shines quite as bright as Scorpius Malfoy. This kid is what I hoped for when I imagined the new generation. He brings a lightness to the narrative despite the negativity surrounding him and his family’s connection to Voldemort. Scorpius knows how other people view him, but unlike Albus who seems to bruise under the weight of his ancestry, Scorpius remains defiant in a different sort of way. He is kind and loyal, willing to go to great lengths to protect the people he loves. Though many are determined to dislike him, Scorpius remains good-natured, confident that if given the chance, those with prejudice views will eventually see him for who he is and not what the imagine him to be.
Overall, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was actually quite an entertaining read. I’m interested in the extra tidbits the play provides in terms of special effects, but even without it this story provided plenty of enjoyable moments and just the right amount of nostalgia.