This week I want to talk about something we were told would never happen. The latest and greatest release from Scholastic, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One and Two. It was adapted by John Tiffany and Jack Thorne from an original story written by J.K. Rowling herself. This IS the eighth Harry Potter book in the canon and it also serves as the rehearsal script for the play of the same name, which is being performed in London to crowds of feverish Potterheads — tickets are sold out through December 2017, in fact.
I devoured this book, it took me about 5 hours to read and at the end of it I was… mildly entertained. Don’t get me wrong, it is a great piece of writing. The story is entertaining, picking up right where the epilogue of the seventh book ends, and it offers a fun look at the life of Harry as an adult. My problem with the book is its format.
The fact that this is a script for a stage show means a) this is a fast read and b) it lacks detail and, honestly, a bit of emotion because of its limitations as a script. Let me clarify a little on my second point. The format causes the writing to be a bit hollow as the actors and director are meant to breathe life into the characters. So we are left with a narrative that is really meant to be seen as a production rather than read as a book. The descriptions of actions and facial expressions don’t do the beloved characters justice since they are meant to be literal descriptions of what the actor is doing instead of what the character is doing. Also it kind of reads as a series of people entering and leaving a room, and while I understand that’s the point of stage directions, it just robs the story of feeling.
I really did enjoy the story, for what it’s worth. I thought it was a clever continuation of the Harry Potter mythos. It had the elements we all knew and loved from the books and managed to keep the maturity that Rowling developed over the course of the series. It’s a fantastic examination of boy burdened with the weight of a famous father and a really touching story about an orphan who is trying to raise a family with no experience of what a loving family is or should be. I also think the play would be magnificent to see. If the actors are even half-decent and the set design follows some of the notes from the script, it would be a sight to behold.
It also must be said that the play has caused a little controversy in the wider world as it was arranging its cast. They cast Noma Dumezweni, an accomplished stage and screen actor, as Hermione Granger. The thing that caused the outcry is that she is a black woman. This caused a lot of fans, familiar with the fantastic portrayal of the character by Emma Watson, to be upset as they felt it was a major change to a main character. Some suggested it was an “affirmative action” move while others didn’t seem to care.
Most of the hardcore fans, at least the ones I talked to, or heard/read comments from, were not upset. Rowling herself was fine with the changes as she felt the character’s skin tone was left ambiguous in the novels. I tend to agree with her as the books describe her as having “a bossy sort of voice, lots of bushy brown hair, and rather large front teeth.” (The quote is form the illustrated edition of the Philosophers Stone by the way.)
Finally, I feel like the eighth installment would have been best presented like the rest of the series, as a novel. Like I said earlier — it’s missing something as a script for a play, really needing to be seen rather then read. If you are a Potter fan you definitely need to pick this book up. I give the story 5 out of 5 and the script itself 3 out of 5.