So… yes. That happened. Aa year after from buying our tickets, we have finally seen Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. And since I had not read the script (I haven’t lost my mind enough yet to read scripts…), it was a completely fresh experience. Don’t ask me how I avoided all the spoilers. I am still not sure. Just as I am still not sure what I think about the play itself.
I guess it was just… meh?
I need to warn you about something. I am trying to keep with this whole #keepthesecret business and avoid any spoilers, but things can seep through the cracks, so approach this post with caution. Because I do want to be as spoiler-free as possible, this review may have a very different tone and structure than my regular reviews and inevitably will turn into me rambling about personal experiences. Just saying.
The truth is, I really wanted to love this play. I had a feeling I may not, mostly due to how disappointed people who had read the script were, all my friends included, but I knew that scripts never ever read well unless they are masterpieces of literature. Call me prejudiced, but Harry Potter and the Cursed Child never struck me as a potential masterpiece of literature and, well, it turned out not to be one; so, there was a fair chance that its delivery would be good enough to cover up a faulty script.
And it was not only my massive love for everything Harry Potter that pushed me towards this dire need to love it. It was a very odd combination of not wanting to see your heroes fall, some unhealthy nostalgia, ridiculous pricing and the fact I had to take a day off work to see it – all together with this insane, year-long wait made me desperate for results.
This is a mixture nothing in the whole universe could live up to; so when the first disappointment hit me, I had to work really hard to dis-attach myself from what was just an unrealistic expectation and try to find out what I actually think about the play. Did I like it on its own? Did I have fun watching it? Did I think it was made well?
Well, I don’t know. Maybe? Or maybe not. Rather not?
I just don’t think Harry Potter and the Cursed Child delivers.
Production-wise it is nearly perfect. You can see money flooding the scene with every special effect and it does not only look expensive, it all looks very good too. Some of the light tricks left the audience, me included, awing with excitement. Costumes, music, set, all of that worked really amazingly. Technically it was a really good show, as one would expect.
What about the actors, you may ask? Most of them were very good too, let me say most as even thinking of the women who played Ginny and Hermione gives me chills. What bad, bad performances – turning two kind and loving characters into heartless bitches who yell half of their stage time… But the rest of the cast was very good, and I am bound to talk about them in detail later.
It was just that the story was so…
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child suffers immensely because of how poorly its script is written. Not only does the story makes very little sense and goes against not only many characters and events of the books, but also the message behind the books – no, it is also just poorly written and some of the dialogues will give you a headache. It took me a while to get into the story because of how badly it was expressed; my disbelief just couldn’t be suspended. And once I did get into the story a little, it took a huge twist that broke my immersion forever – and I lost any interest in what was happening on the stage for a good half of the second part.
Oh my, the twist is so bad, I think I need a tea break.
Ok, I am back.
I like the premise of the play. You know, its hook. I may be in the minority over here but the idea of watching Harry and his son collide, work on their relationship, learn from each other and just be… you know, a son disliking his dad and all, that tickles me the right way. I found this portion of the story, Albus trying to own up somehow to the name he carries and failing miserably at every step, rather touching. I found Albus very touching himself, actually. If the story had stopped at this part, I would have happily enjoyed it.
Especially that Albus is accompanied by what must be the best character in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Scorpius Malfoy. In the books, I hate the Malfoys with a burning passion. Draco Malfoy is, for me, the most despicable one in the entire series; but, you know, my favourite character is Barty Crouch Jr who famously turned Draco into a ferret. But Scorpius is not his father or even his grandfather; he is something completely different.
I loved Scorpius.
I loved the guy who played him, I loved the character, I loved even the sloppiest of his dialogues – I was #teamscorpius all the way. The relationship between him and his father, and him and Albus was spot on and by far he is the character that progressed the most during the story. The Scorpius we meet is not the Scorpius we say goodbye to. If the show was just Albus and Scorpius, even going on that crazy adventure of theirs, I think the potterhead in me would be very happy with it.
(Do you think I have said that I love Scorpius Malfoy enough yet? May come back to it later if not!)
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child suffers through the same… curse as Fantastic Beats – it cannot escape Voldemort. The very idea that instead of getting a 5-movie extravaganza full of cute animals and new, original characters we get a cookie-cutter villain who we have no real need of still bothers me, yes. But the same thing happens to the play!
Not many people in the world believe the Harry Potter series can exist without a Dark Lord of a sort. But just look at The Prisoner of Azkaban, by far the most popular Harry Potter book. Sure, the handsome face of the crazy bastard called Sirius Black does help, but what helps more is the very lack of an obligatory, procedural Voldemort fight at the end.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child did NOT need a villain. Let alone a villain that makes no sense whatsoever.
I really struggle with this new attitude entertainment has towards the audience, especially younger ones. I mentioned it countless times when talking about Paddington (yes, I am still bitter about that), but I have seen it seeping into countless shows and films now. Someone somewhere decided that people are too dumb to hold their attention on a story without a Big Bad. So a Big Bad needs to show up, regardless of how immersion breaking it may be.
I need to move on before I spoil anything.
Amongst many other things Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is also a great proof that fanfiction is not easy. People like to mock fanfiction writers (and I do too, to be honest), but making a piece of writing actually work within its original is a very hard task to achieve. To some extent aligning yourself to someone else’s work can prove to be a more demanding job than creating something original. Sure, there are some bonuses, like the fact you can skip on exposition half of the time and rely on common knowledge – but keeping fanfiction within the rules of the original story does not come so easily.
You can see this struggle very well here, not only on the most basic level of things not adding up. It’s the characters. The only characters on the stage that actually feel like living, breathing people are Albus and Scorpius – that is the main original characters of the show. The others are either one-dimensional (Ron), out of character (Ginny and Hermione) or simply… a bit off (Harry).
Scorpius and Albus shine. Canonical characters range from meh to just leave.
My pet peeve is the relationship between Ron and Hermione, that somehow to a lesser extent manifests itself in the relationship between Harry and Ginny. Ron gets turned into a rambling fool who is not good for anything other than saying jokes that are only funny because the actor playing him goes Wink! Wink! Nudge! Nudge! I am Ron! I am funny! every time he is on stage. I can hardly blame the actor – Ron’s lines are by far the worst ones around. But Hermione gets transformed into this… borderline dominatrix, borderline sexist (I cannot believe I am calling someone sexist) wife from bad jokes that holds her useless husband hostage and shows him the power of womanhood. If I cared more, I’d say there was some agenda being pushed over this way. All I will say is how Hermione represents the very worst stereotype of a Strong Female Character that I just cannot stand.
Harry has his bad moments and his good moments; so half of the time I was clueless about why the heck he did what he did and half of the time I kind of felt alright about him. But it did feel as if the play is too strongly reliant on him. Yeah, I know it is called Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, but the story itself just screams to be told via Albus’s eyes, he needs to be at the centre of it, he needs to be the star of the show – yet every time it is just Harry again and again, oh my, we’ve spent so many years by now talking about Harry, can we finally move on?
There were some very good supporting actors which I will not mention because of the spoilers – but let me just say that the teachers of Hogwarts are still in shape. I promise.
Which brings me to the point that I do not want to linger over too much – the promise that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will not be so heavily movie based. Not that there is anything wrong with that; but after the whole speech on how Hermione does not to look like Emma Watson, I expected a bit of a revolution. And what we got was movie sets, movie costumes, actors cast so that they look like their movie counterparts. So yeah, that didn’t happen. Don’t get too excited about the fresh look – it was never meant to be.
That kind of sucks though, as people who are used to the way things are get the shock of Hermione NOT being Emma Watson and people who wanted change got an insignificant amount of it. I mean, come on, the Malfoys wear blonde wings. It’s a classic case of having your cake and eating it gone wrong, where no one is happy and everything is wrong at the end. What was even the point of that?
Disclaimer: My problem with Hermione (and Ginny!) is purely on the acting and how the character was written. Just so you know.
So, was Harry Potter and the Cursed Child worth seeing? Ye… No. Not for that money and not for that time either, I mean, it is two shows. It is not worth the hype, the wait, the excitement. Not for me. Not for anyone so attached to Harry Potter that they know how many hairs Snape grew on his back per square inch. Go see the Harry Potter sets instead. You get to touch the gates of Hogwarts. You’re gonna love it!
The absolute best part of the play for me was going to Tokyo Diner (not sponsored). Tokyo Diner is by far the best authentic Japanese restaurant in the whole of the UK and if you do end up seeing this play, it is probably worth paying them a visit in between the shows. Usually I try to steer away from such recommendations, but it is just a short walk away and has never, ever disappointed me.
This all being said, if one day someone streamed the play, it is worth experiencing. Similarly, if you did get the tickets for free, make sure you don’t have anything more interesting to do with your annual leave and see it too. The production is, indeed, quite wonderful. It is high budget theatre at its best. You won’t see production standards like this in your local theatre, although, you know, you may actually see a very good play instead.
My boyfriend liked it. He didn’t like it that much but he enjoyed it more than me and his overall opinion was more on the warm side. I did enjoy it too, at times; I laughed, I cried (poor little Scorpius) and I was alright with it… for a while. It was fun, just not enough fun. And pure fun is what I expect form a Wednesday night with Don’t Tell The Bride – for me theatre is about meaning, and this play did everything in its power to defy its meaning altogether.
But whatever you do, don’t waste your money on the script.
The script is the absolute worst part of the show.
A little P.S.
This is something I wanted to mention in relation to the theatre itself and not the play so if you came around to see me complain and not just read about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child specifically, please stay around. Otherwise feel free to jump straight to the comment section!
Something happened before the performance that still angers me and I wouldn’t be myself if I stayed quiet about it. And this something is the mass binning of food.
There is a theatre policy attached to this performance about not bringing in your own food. Fair enough, private property = private rules. I would love for people not to offend my intelligence by claiming it is for security reasons – haha, totally – but I am happy to play along. And if the security guards are happy to be the people who take away a lollipop from a five year old, be my guest.
But this policy IS NOT made clear to all the audience before they arrive – which leads to security guards not only taking the food away, but THROWING IT ALL INTO THE BINS. And I don’t mean – a little packet of crisps. There were bins and bins of unopened, still in their original packaging, fresh food there.
This may not outrage all of you as much as it outrages me, but it is quite an unbelievably idiotic practice and for an institution endorsed by the Miss let-us-save-the-world J. K. Rowling, it is… just unbelievable.
There are so many people not only around the world, but in London too, more than that, on the streets and in the apartments around the theatre, striving to get anything to eat each day, that to bin so much fresh food for no good reason whatsoever is beyond me. In a world where food waste is estimated to be at least 30% of all food bought, do we really need theatres, the houses of culture and refinement (I have heard) to add to this problem?!
I know you cannot just give food away. But you could collect it and pass it on to food banks – there may be a pesky cost associated with this, but if you are to introduce such a strict rule and not inform people about it, just pay for the consequences of your actions, damnit.