Buzzed Books #44 by Chuck Cannini
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts I & II
Even as I walked through New York City’s streets in the rain without an umbrella, I may as well have received my acceptance letter to Hogwarts. Seven hours and a rendition of Macbeth, which I reviewed earlier this week in Shakespearing #43, were between me and Cursed Child’s midnight release party. The crowds, the costumes, the entertainment, the passion – I love midnight releases.
But I didn’t go. I really needed to write that Macbeth review, Floo powder does not exist to replace the last LIRR train after midnight, I still needed to do my laundry and pick up my car from inspection, and my bank account – well, let’s just say Vault 713 would be mysteriously emptied later that same day. Adult life – responsibility, that dirty R-word – cast the enslaving Imperius Curse on me. Maybe next time, childhood.
When my fingers finally caressed Cursed Child’s golden cover, this was how I reconnected with Harry nineteen years later. Harry put in long days catching Dark wizards and confiscating an illegal Time-Turner, which sounded like awesome reasons to be overworked. But the point resonated with me. Harry grew up. And so did I.
Instead, like how irresponsible Sirius Black connected with his teenage nephew, I lived vicariously and selfishly through Harry’s youngest son, Albus Severus Potter.
Interesting premises surrounded Albus’ character, whose potential had already fascinated me during his brief introduction at the end of Deathly Hallows. Albus had worried that he might be sorted into Slytherin House, and that same concern rippled through the early sentences of Cursed Child’s play format. But in that brief moment on Platform 9 ¾, I had never considered that Albus carried the unwanted weight of his father’s legacy on his shoulders or that this Potter might befriend a Malfoy.
A decades-long grudge between their parents strained Albus and Scorpious Malfoy’s loyal friendship, which contributed to a father-son feud.
Albus: I just wish you weren’t my dad.
Harry (seeing red): Well, there are times I wish you weren’t my son.
Damn, Harry. Can’t blame your temper on the Horcruxes this time.
Like father, like son, though. A bit upset while on his way to his fourth year at Hogwarts, Albus jumped ship – train, actually – and stole the illegal Time-Turner to prevent the death of Cedric Diggory in 1995 (Goblet of Fire), altering the life Albus never wanted.
After seven books and 4,100 pages (I did the math … but I’m also not very good at math) of wizarding history, time travel seemed like a tricky concept to toy with (again). I can’t say that the story failed as a result, because a lot of what happened was clever and fun, but the time travel did not seem J.K. Rowling-clever and raised some unanswered questions.
For one example, why does saving Cedric Diggory alter only some events? And even more importantly, if Cedric lives, does the survival of movie actor Robert Pattinson’s character in any way stop the creation of Twilight?
The historical catastrophe looped back around to Albus, who needed to not just witness the dark consequences of changing history but also understand his father.
But as Potterheads re-experienced the Triwizard Maze, meeting and losing Professor Snape, and of course reliving Harry’s fateful Halloween night, Harry and his backstory seemed to steal Albus’ spotlight. During these emotional highlights, I felt more connected with Harry and less with Albus, who is supposedly the main character. Then again, this play isn’t titled Albus Potter and the Cursed Child.
These were minor oversights, something a grouchy writer like me would grumble about. The Potterhead in me could care less. I barely noticed the absence of novel-length detail in between the script’s bare-essential scene headings, character names, and dialogue. As Harry later explained: “Love blinds.”
As far as the story goes, the only unforgivable gripe I had with Cursed Child concerned Voldemort’s daughter. This idea felt so out of left field that I’m still uncertain if this is the issue of a Potterhead or a writer, so I’ll just say this: the existence of Voldemort’s daughter diminished my interpretation of Voldemort’s relationship with the important love theme throughout the main seven novels. I don’t know what J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne were thinking.
After turning Cursed Child’s 308th and final page, the biggest takeaway for me was that the collaborative effort is apparent in the characters’ dialogue and psychology. Rowling understands her characters, her world. The other guys not so much.
Cursed Child is also a play– meant to be seen and not read, like Shakespeare. Most can’t afford a trip to London to watch the five-hour play. Would I see the play on Broadway? I would like to see how the play accomplished certain potions and spells on stage, but the Potterhead in me says, “YES! ABSOLUTELY! TAKE ALL MY MONEY!”
Chuck Cannini never received his acceptance letter to Hogwarts, so he earned a B.F.A. in Creative Writing for Entertainment instead. He does not like Muggles.