After years of intensely protecting her world, JK Rowling finally let someone else in… to write a fan fiction about time travel. In lieu of the originality fans expect from the franchise, we’re left with a volume that focuses the bulk of its attention on events the audience is already familiar with.
The whole proceedings remind me of an opposite version of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Like Cursed Child, Force is made by an outsider and shamelessly indebted to the past but while Abrams’ Star Wars lifts its structure from the originals almost to the point of remake; Cursed Child (authored by playwright and future His Dark Materials adaptor, Jack Thorne) tries to tell a new tale but bloats itself with references to the past. Force paid homage by conformity to the previously established way of “this is how a Star Wars movie goes”, Cursed Child attempted new elements at every turn: being in the format of a playscript, focusing on time travel, and moving Harry to a supporting role. Force Awakens is a continuation with its head turned fondly to what came before; Cursed Child is a Potter highlights reel.
Its format is the work’s biggest problem. I don’t know how this thing would be staged and it does not feel fit for theatre at all, the scenes change constantly, there’s polyjuice potion transformations before the audiences eyes and so much magic. For me, theatre is about a heightened sense of intimacy and a sort of minimalism you can’t do on screen. Cursed Child seems fit for a stadium than a stage. There is so much spectacle that all the new characters get lost in the fray.
It’s obvious Thorne lacks understanding about many of the characters in the Potter universe. All over the place old favorites act in ways never conceivable by their book incarnations. He claims to have read the novels multiple times but writes like he half-watched the movies on an ABC Family marathon. He manages to shoehorn in every major character and fills his dialogue with jokes sounding like they came from sitcoms and colloquialisms like “übergeek”. Thorne shows a loose grasp on the Potter world, repeatedly breaking already established rules of time travel, ability to enter Hogwarts, and even retcons a character to make them pregnant during major events in the original series. His revisiting of key moments renders them as trivial plot devices and robbed of all emotional impact.
It fails as a Potter sequel, it fails as a piece of theatre, and overall it fails at being of the world at all. The fact that JK Rowling approved this piece of garbage is an insult to the fans and the first real dent in the Potter legacy.