Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a stage script by Jack Thorne, was always going to feel like an Ikea manual (with a few screws and the Allen key missing) against the backdrop of Rowling’s epic tomes.
The script starts where the final book finished: nineteen years later, with Harry’s son, Albus Severus, anxious the Sorting Hat will call out, “Slytherin,” and pronounce him different to his entire family and heroic dad.
But before Albus dons the hat, he happens upon sweet nerd, Scorpius, who shares his anticipation he’ll be shunned at Hogwarts due to personal rumours and the Malfoy name. He’s not wrong and is ostracised by Albus’ cousin, Rose. On a whim, Albus ignores Rose and befriends Scorpius, and the two of them—bundled into Slytherin and treading in the shadows of their differently-famed fathers—grow close.
But Albus’ troubles climb: his relationship with his father disintegrates, he and Scorpius endure school bullying, and his capacity to cope presents us with a question reminiscent of Harry’s childhood: is Albus going to be all right? Then he and Scorpius find a way to wind back time to rewrite a key moment in history and take charge of their lives. But will their antics trigger catastrophe and wipe out all we came to celebrate in The Deathly Hallows? A mystery also looms: did Voldemort have a child? If so, with whom, when, and how? (If you got through the first third without wondering about Voldemort’s more intimate candlelit dinners, your mind is made of gold)
Several characters fall short under Thorne’s gaze: Dumbledore feels more like an imposter than the wise philosopher who knew the answer to everything was woolly socks. Draco’s initial harshness towards Harry suggests he’s forgotten their truce, but Draco’s arc becomes one of the more gratifying aspects of The Cursed Child. The trio slip in and out of recognition, while newer characters feel well-defined, with Scorpius a veritable delight. Ron also adds levity, but it is not until the final pages, when Harry shimmers, that the script achieves some magic.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a satisfying, familiar-enough jaunt that is far more likely to tantalise on stage than the page. Controversies surrounding plot points and the use of the name ‘Voldemort’ will give diehard fans something they’ve desperately missed: new Potter material for discussion and debate.