The Boy Who Lived just turned 36 years old.
Luckily, his similarly aging fandom was able to celebrate the occasion with the highly anticipated release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. In J.K. Rowling’s classic fashion, The Cursed Child symbolically hit shelves on Harry Potter’s birthday (July 31, for all you non-Pottermaniacs).
Written by Jack Thorne, J.K. Rowling, and John Tiffany, The Cursed Child picks up right where Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows left off: Platform 9 ¾ in King’s Cross Station. Glimpsing into his life 19 years post-Voldemort, the story begins with Harry preparing his younger son Albus Severus to head to Hogwarts for his first year of witchcraft and wizardry.
The next generation of Weasleys and Longbottoms is present, but Albus shockingly settles on befriending the enemy: Draco Malfoy’s son Scorpius. The pair are placed in Slytherin House, igniting a struggle to live down their family legacies throughout their years at Hogwarts. The plot unfolds as Albus and Scorpius manipulate time travel in response to an unheeded request from Cedric Diggory’s father to Harry.
For those of us who religiously followed the series as a kid—yes, midnight releases of the movies and the books—news of the series revival was a Godsend. However, adding a chapter to one of the most influential stories of our lifetime felt like a risky move. How can J.K. Rowling create a villain as mystifying as Voldemort? A hero as powerful, but quirky as Harry? A plotline as mind-boggling as one that took seven books to complete?
Magically, these concerns transform into strengths for The Cursed Child. What makes the play a fantastic read (or view) is its humble approach to such a large reputation. Rowling does not portray Harry Potter in another grand fight for glory, but rather probes at his struggle to find fulfillment with a normal life. She does not cast a larger-than-life foe before Albus, but rather a strained relationship with his father to overcome. She does not resurrect the plot twists and complexities that marked the original Harry Potter story. Instead, she plays on the fact that there is truly no succinct ending to this or any story as time marches forward. And thus, the most seamless element of the play script is its ability to move forward rather than rehash the past.
The script release sent a wave of Pottermania across the globe this Sunday, but actually viewing the production currently requires airfare to England. This exclusivity has resulted in critics’ dissent over the break from the novel-to-movie style of installments one through seven. However, Rowling remains “confident that when audiences see the play they will agree that it is the only proper medium for the story.”
Fortunately, Broadway might pick up the two-part play in 2017 to give us the full Cursed Child experience. Until then, mischief managed.