The reviews are raving. Most critics have awarded five stars. The script is a best-seller before its release, and the play has garnered resounding thumps for being “out of this world” (The Times). Harry Potter and the Cursed Child -- written by JK Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany -- has already made its mark at the London Palace Theatre in West End and the script releases on Sunday.
But it’s nineteen years later, Harry is 36 and a father of three, and Rowling’s crisp “All was well” ending may not hold true as the story picks up where it left us off. But now that Harry is an “overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic”, will the story retain that magic?
What you can expect from The Cursed Child is a culmination of past and present, of generations intermingling, of a story carried forward by a current pushing remnants of a tumultuous history to the shores of future.
“While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted.”
If reviews are to be believed, Lord Voldemort won’t be returning in flesh but like his seven horcruxes, embers of his presence may find expression in the Cursed Child. The saga, true to its genre, will continue to play on the Manichean opposites of good and evil, light and dark -- as the synopsis suggests. Director John Tiffany hinted at this in an interview: “I knew from the excitement in the kids I’d shared the books with that we had to bring darkness back. There had to be a new jeopardy.”
That brings us to the question of evil. Who or what is ‘evil’ in the Cursed Child? (We don’t expect Professor Umbridge and her revolting “Tch tch tch” to make a special appearance). Like Harry’s evolution from a teenager out to fulfil a quest to a father grappling with newer familial complexities, the theme of darkness has seemingly unfolded in the play too. Evil may not always be a dark wizard or witch, but psychological struggles -- this time nibbling at the Potter family. The Guardian’s Michael Billington described the play as a “dash of Freudian guilt” and “Oedipal Albus” who has a “need to prevail over his father” -- hinting that darkness may be found in unexpected corners, and not in mere personifications of evil. Such a move wouldn’t be surprising, considering Rowling has complicated relationships before; recall Harry’s internal conflict about Dumbledore’s past in Deathly Hallows, Sirius’ treatment of Kreacher that wound up in the elf’s betrayal of his ‘master’ and most importantly, when Harry peeked into a memory to witness his father, James Potter, bullying Snape by hoisting him upside down.
There are indications that the play will also experiment with contours of loneliness and isolation. Harry’s yearning for a family, Neville Longbottom’s tragedy and the eccentric Luna Lovegood’s childhood suffering were motifs emerging time and again in the series. Now there’s a new generation that is picking up pieces of the past, living under their shadow. Harry’s youngest child has to struggle with a “family legacy” and there are adequate speculations to believe that Malfoy’s son Scorpius will play a significant role -- together with Albus Severus Potter.
The Harry Potter books also left us with Edward/Ted -- Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks’ son who was born shortly before his parents perished in the Battle for Hogwarts. Like Sirius Black, Teddy -- who also finds refuge with the Potter family -- will be another ring in the chain linking past to the present.
Who is the Cursed Child?
Rowling’s designs pan out as the pages turn and there isn’t much you can guess from the title or the cover. It happened with the Prisoner of Azkaban and the Half Blood Prince -- although both stories gave away the mystery in different time frames. If the same logic is applied, the answer won’t be an obvious one -- in this case, Albus. There are some widespread searches for the Cursed Child on online forums but we’d rather keep that a secret, at least until we know.
All of it trickles down to a few pertinent questions, harping on every fan’s mind: Will Potterverse be as alluring as it adorns new characters and plots in the Cursed Child. Will Harry still be the protagonist we fell in love with? Is the Cursed Child worthy of being called the ‘eighth book’? And finally, the glaring one of all: With the Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, is this a resurrection? Do we dare?
Until then, I solemnly swear I’m up to no good.
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