“The truth is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution.”
Kind of like how The Force Awakens calls back to the first Star Wars, Cursed Child introduces Harry Potter’s next generation with help from old heroes by revisiting all their greatest hits from the original series. And so we begin where Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows ended: with Harry and Ginny taking their son, Albus Severus Potter, to the familiar Hogwarts Express for his first year at school. Albus’ older brother, James, has already been at school, but his journey is unimportant to our narrative so we might as well forget about him (the rest of the characters certainly seem to).
Ostensibly, Cursed Child is about Albus coming to terms with his father’s legacy and finding his own way. But it’s clear that producers know Potterphiles will want as much Harry, Ron, and Hermione as possible, so the core three from the original series quickly become integral to the plot. So do Draco Malfoy, Harry’s old nemesis from his school days, Draco’s son Scorpius, and Professor McGonagall. Many more familiar faces will pop in and out as the narrative progresses.
Setting all this up isn’t easy, and Part 1 suffers from the weight of getting all the chess pieces into place while catching the audience up. It doesn’t help that the first quarter of Part 1 speeds its way through Albus’ first years at Hogwarts. Things only really start to gel once the plot stops leaping and starts settling in on the primary conflict, which is to say it only really starts to gel right as Part 1 is getting ready to come to a close. If you were seeing the plays, Part 1 would be a frustrating experience for all that. On the page, you can dive right into Part 2, where things begin to coalesce.
It is a shame that Cursed Child coasts so heavily on familiarity to elicit a response. It doesn’t always feel that it’s earning a reaction from you so much as it’s prompting one J.K. Rowling earned long ago in the pages of another book. It’s a shame, but there’s no denying that it is effective. Even without breaking new ground, Potterphiles the world over (like myself) won’t really be able to help falling under Cursed Child‘s spell.
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