Exeposé Arts & Lit online (9 August 2016)
July 2002: seven-year-old me’s just finished a new journal entry, tallying how many times I’ve read each Harry Potter book. So far we’re on eight. Fast forward to summer 2005? You’ll find one pale 10-year-old refusing to leave the hotel room. Mum and Dad aren’t buying her ‘stomach ache.’ They know she’s hooked on Half Blood Prince. Two years later? There’s me again, on a sunbed in Greece – glaring with insane jealousy at my new BFF Sarah, who arrived book-in-hand yesterday and has already uttered those heartbreaking words “Dumbledore dies…”
Harry Potter memories are ace. I’m sure we’ve all got them. But wouldn’t it be way cooler if you could physically go back and relive it all? It’s a pity all the Time Turners were destroyed before the Second Wizarding War…
…or were they?
22 years after the Battle of Hogwarts, Albus Severus Potter is about to start his fourth year at school with bestie Scorpius Malfoy (you read that right) when the Potters get a visit. It’s Amos Diggory. He’s heard the Ministry confiscated a Time Turner… and he wants to bring Cedric back. Totally illegal, of course – but just like his father, Albus doesn’t set much store by the rules…
To say Cursed Child presses all the nostalgia buttons is an understatement. Almost a decade after the last Potter story unravelled in our eager hands, JK Rowling’s world is back. And we didn’t even need bone of the father, flesh of the servant or blood of the enemy – just the expert spellmanship of playwright Jack Thorne and director John Tiffany.
Because when you start meddling with time, anything can happen. We’re talking good-guys-gone-bad, bad-guys-gone-good, unlikely marriages, surprise teaching careers… and possibly the most heart-wrenching resurrection in the history of fiction.
It’s the one we’ve been waiting for. But it’s also a play with a huge weight on its shoulders – because, of course, Harry Potter fan-fiction has been done. Extensively. With no stone left unturned, fans have conjured up secret relationships, sexualities, alternative endings… all the while nurturing a loyal devotion to Rowling’s original stories.
So how do you strike a balance? How much of that old, familiar vibe can you maintain before fans feel cheated of a new story? And how much new stuff can you add before it’s just too alien? Happily, this trio’s unearthed a balance that for the most part works wickedly. And despite Ginny’s infuriating lack of promotion from sidekick, and a lazy caricature of Ron as jokeshop-owner-slash-eccentric-uncle (he destroyed a Horcrux too, remember?!), the characters’ ageing feels both satisfyingly new and completely natural. Oh, except that unspeakably gruesome bit of wizard sex we now can’t help but picture… *shudder*
Do some lines sound forced, even cheesy? Maybe. And does it ring of fan fiction? A little. Ok, more than a little. But every spell leaves a trace – and this is fan fiction laced with Rowling’s all-knowing magic. Let’s face it: the original novels weren’t gold dust for their sophisticated style. No-frills language just left more room for a plot that literally made you feel like you’d dunked your head in the Pensieve – and likewise, Cursed Child sees playwright Thorne’s simple language made utterly convincing. A few pages is all it takes to make the playscript format blur into something magical – and by the story’s close, you’re left both flabbergasted and utterly convinced that it couldn’t possibly have gone any other way.