Oookay, let me preface this by saying that I tried really hard to ignore the positive and negative things I had heard about this play. I tried to separate it from the works written by J.K. Rowling and not hold it to that very high standard. I tried not to allow my love for the first seven stories to pollute my ability to enjoy this new work. So I can say honestly that judged fairly, objectively, and on its own merits, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is simply awful.
It’s a disaster. It reads like something that was written at 3am after taking Ambien and hallucinating at your computer for an hour. (I can say that because I’ve accidentally done that before.) You feel really really creative and like what you’re writing will change the world, but then when you read it in the harsh light of day you realize you’ve created literary toxic waste, and you delete it.
Or in the case of these authors, you publish it and perform it in front of everyone.
Here are just a FEW of the things wrong with this play:
- It reads like bad fan fiction. And don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed bad fan fiction. In fact, I do so often. But bad fan fiction is unapologetically bad. That’s part of the fun. Those who write truly wonderful bad fan fic understand that they aren’t writing canon. They don’t present it as good. They present it as fun. If I read this on a website for silly bad fan fic I might have gone easier on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, but they didn’t. They called themselves the Next Really Truly Chapter™ in the Harry Potter epic. And you can’t follow Deathly Hallows with something that reads like a drunken half effort. You just can’t.
- Okay, I’m going to sound like a fangirl here, but bear with me. They got the voices completely wrong. Harry did not talk like Harry. Ron was not Ron. Was Ludo on speed? Snape was DEFINITELY not Snape (and yes, I realize he was in an alternate reality, but still. It’s like they didn’t even try). I actually enjoyed the play more if I pretended that these characters were completely distinct from their book series versions. However, because they call this play the “next chapter,” it was an important thing to get the characters right, and they either ignored that or weren’t skilled enough to reproduce the characters they were representing.And speaking of voices, when I sat down in my chair to read this and got through the first couple scenes, I actually stopped, closed the book, rubbed my eyes (because sometimes when you’re forcing yourself to read bad writing it physically hurts) and texted Christina in dismay, because these authors not only could not write my beloved wizarding characters–they just plain could not write children. 11-year-olds do not talk like 40-year-olds pretending to be children. And that’s how young Albus, Rose, James, and Scorpius all read. It was distracting to say the least. Nauseating to say the most.
- SUPER ANNOYING PLOT HOLES! Maybe this isn’t the writer’s fault. Maybe it was intentional that Albus and Scorpius be god-awful at planning mischief. But the play is full of really really irritating planning and sudden, deus ex machina-esque plot devices. In order to move the play forward, they will randomly introduce a new fact that just happens to really conveniently solve their problem. Like Delphi just happens to have Polyjuice Potion because she is good at plans, even though it has to stew for a month. Just don’t worry about that. Harry has an attachment to a blanket that he never once mentioned ever in his first 18 years that he suddenly has to pet every Halloween. Where did they get the gillyweed for the second task? “Rumor has it that Bathilda Bagshot keeps exactly what we need on hand all the time, just in case!” It’s all very irritating.Also, why on earth would they decide to dress as Durmstrang students for the first time travel? There are hundreds of Hogwarts students. It makes sense that they would blend in. How many Durmstrang students are there? 12? 25? I graduated high school with 24 other students. I would DEFINITELY have noticed extra kids wearing my school uniform that didn’t belong in the halls.
So, let’s be fair. Let’s pretend this play has nothing to do with Harry Potter and that they didn’t give my beloved Trolley Witch spikes for hands. I really tried to divest my love for Harry and Co. while reading this play, and even on its own Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is awful.
The play expects the audience to take WAY too much at face value. It lacks substance, desperately. The characters are flat, whiny, and I found myself having no one to root for because they all annoyed the crap out of me. If we are being really, truly honest, this play would not have seen the stage had Rowling not mysteriously given it her stamp of approval. Acknowledging that I AM a huge, perfectionist nerd, it has to be said that as a Harry Potter fan I gained nothing from reading it, and I actually picked up Sorcerer’s Stone immediately upon closing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child so that I could refresh my mind with some proper magic.
I am curious about how they staged it. I’d be interested to see how they portray magic on a stage (particularly the simple things that don’t require smoke and bangs, like setting right a stack of papers). But after reading the play, I wouldn’t pay much to see it on stage. Maybe it’s all in the delivery, and I’m just plain wrong with everything I wrote above. I read quite a bit of drama, however, and so even taking it at face value as a play, it still reads like some sort of chemically-induced joke that maybe belongs on a fan fiction site, but certainly not in the HP cannon.
Can I find even one positive thing to say about it? …The graphic on the cover was cool. I liked how the kid was all crouching in the time turner looking shifty.
…Sorry, that’s all I got.