By Matt Gabell
Big ups to the guys at Nerd Union for letting me jump on, you’ll normally find me covering sports over at Tennessee Fan Force. I’m your classic closet Harry Potter fan. I’ve read the books a couple times and the movies were good, but I’m not into fan fiction and I don’t have any pets named Sirius Black or a tattoo of the Deathly Hallows (you know who you are).
All that being said, this is the one series that let’s me parade my inner nerd and the release of Harry Potter and The Cursed Child today has had me waiting like a kid at Christmas. J.K. Rowling has led the #KeepTheSecret campaign on social media to ensure there would be no spoilers or leaks of the latest installment to the series. She was joined alongside John Tiffany and Jack Thorne to continue the magical series on the live stage at the Palace Theater in London. Potter heads, myself included, finally have new literature as this week marked the release of the script book for the two part play. I never thought I’d be purchasing a script book, but I also never thought Donald Trump would actually win the Republican Nomination but here we are- it’s the mad world of 2016, people. I’ll be reviewing both parts of the script book separately and here we’ll start with part one. Spoilers follow.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows ended with a grown up Harry married to Ginny Weasley alongside their three children- James, Albus, and Lily. (Who names their children after their dead parents? Plus, these kids are basically their grandparents reincarnate based on everything we learned in the original series). The Cursed Child picks up exactly where the 7th installment left off. The Potter family is at King’s Cross station along with Ron and Hermione Weasley and their daughter Rose. It’s time for the kids to be off to Hogwart’s and Albus confronts his dad about the apprehension of being sorted into the Slytherin house at the school rather than Gryffindor like the rest of the family.
It quickly becomes apparent that Albus Potter will be the centerpiece for this play and that he and Harry have a very awkward relationship. The writers jump right into the family issues of the Potters and it leaves me to wonder- what the hell happened in a 19 year period that Harry Potter can’t maintain a relationship with his 11 year old son even though he saved the entire Wizarding world from Voldemort the last time we saw him?
Being so accustomed to Harry Potter novels it was tough at first to read this in script form, but I quickly adapted. Rowling and her team did the readers a solid by including loads of references to prior installment stalwarts like Sybil Trelawney, Neville Longbottom, Sirius Black, Delores Umbridge, and even the Triwizard Tournament from Goblet of Fire.
Albus Potter becomes great friends with Scorpius Malfoy, the son of traditional antagonist Draco Malfoy. The boys friendship is weird, clunky, and awkward at times and there isn’t an explanation offered as to where the friendship came from since the trio of Ron, Harry, and Hermione was so important to the original series.
In Part One the boys find themselves on a quest to turn back time and change the past to right where they think Harry went wrong. I actually really enjoyed this idea since so much of the Harry Potter series has been based on Harry and his comrades blindly defeating evil forces even when the odds are stacked against them. Don’t get me wrong, I loved growing up with Harry Potter but he was often wreckless and stupid, but everything always seemed to work out. To question some of Harry’s decisions here says a lot to me about the different ways Rowling can take the future of this series .The fact that she’s willing the go against the grain with the character that this series is founded upon is actually pretty cool.
As much as there is good in the potential of this series there’s also a number of weird and unexplained things, (even for an HP installment). For example, there’s a scene where Albus and Scorpius decide to escape the moving Hogwart’s Express train and the lady who pushes the snack cart starts throwing cakes that explode like grenades and her hands turn to spikes in an attempt to stop them. There’s no explanation as to what this woman is or why she has spikes for hands. You got the feeling that they just needed to fill space here and this is what came out.
It’s no surprise that the entire cast is leary of what may be a resurgence of Dark Magic. Being almost a quarter of a century since Harry and the gang defeated Lord Voldemort it becomes worrisome when his scar starts hurting again. This was always the sign that Voldemort was up to something and on the move but it seems tired and played out. I understand staying true to the series but the whole painful scar thing is getting old.
Part One depends on a lot of flashbacks and memories to hopefully set an impressive stage for Part Two. Some of these memories have seemed unnecessary (like Harry wetting the bed as a child….. seriously, it’s in there) but maybe there will be some significance as to why they’re included. Albus and Scorpius look to travel back in time to the Triwizard Tournament of 1994 (insert Snoop Dogg reference here), to change an outcome of a life that was lost. In the process this becomes the same as any other time travel literature known to man where one thing is changed and it screws up the rest of the world. When will it end? Unfortunately, this part of the script was clunky and predictable. Luckily we gain steam as Harry and Draco duel- it felt like an original HP novel here and we are left with an enormous cliffhanger heading into Part Two. I can’t wait to see if the momentum built in the last few scenes of Part One is topped in Part Two.
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