You might think that after a success like Harry Potter, an author would be completely burnt out. I’m sure I would be – for a while at least. But having scooped up her awards, JK Rowling barely had time for a good night’s sleep before she was deep into a novel for adults, ‘A Casual Vacancy’. Two more followed, this time under a pseudonym (that secret was never going to be kept) and now we have the latest in the Potter saga, ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.’
*********SPOILER ALERT **********
Its hard to judge this from merely reading the script: I’ve heard that the staging and special effects are terrific and I’m sure it’s a tremendous spectacle. But on the page it’s very much a curate’s egg with not many good parts.
The story carries on from the exact moment the series left off. As you will recall, Harry and Ginny are seeing their youngest, Albus, off to Hogwarts. Albus is a nervous, sensitive boy whose main fear is that he will be put into Slytherin House by the Sorting Hat. The main focus of the action is on Albus: as he gets on the train he sits with Scorpius, the son of Draco Malfoy. Both are in some sense pariahs – and because of the history between their parents no-one wants them to be friends – and yet, much as Ron and Harry took to each other right from the word go, so Scorpius and Albus become fast friends. This for me was the best bit of the story: the friendship between them is touching and feels real; the language is authentic for a younger generation (‘Al owled me’) and the relationship feels genuine.
Not so the rest of the story, which regrettably I found to be a re-hashing of the novels. You may recall that all the time-turners in the Ministry had been destroyed. Oh, but wait – one has survived the purge. Albus and Scorpius find it and try to go back in time to prevent – hang on, what was it? to prevent Cedric Diggory from dying because – well I really can’t remember why, and that’s the thing. Once you start going back in time to change plots you’re on a very sticky wicket: in fact it’s a sure sign of jumping the shark.
The adult characters (Harry, Ron, Hermione and others) are flat now that they’re grown up: it’s vaguely interesting finding out that Hermione is Minister for Magic but I ended up skipping whole wodges of the action as it just didn’t grab me.
Like I say, what with special effects and trickery it’s probably stunning on stage – but on the page?
Jumping the shark? Give me hunting the snark any day…