HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD (10 out of 10) Directed by John Tiffany; Written by Jack Thorne; Story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany; Starring Sam Clemmett, Anthony Boyle, Noma Dumezweni, Jamie Parker, Alex Price, and Paul Thornley; The play is currently running in London, the book comes out worldwide July 31, 2016.
This review will try to remain spoiler-free, but will talk vaguely about the overall plot.
"Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" is the next story in the life of Harry Potter and it begins right where the last movie leaves off: as Harry and Ginny Potter are seeing their son, Albus Severus, off to Hogwarts for the first time. It's clear from the start that Albus isn't the self-confident son of Harry Potter one might expect, with his concerns over being sorted into Slytherin. But perhaps, over the course of the play, we learn how alike and how far apart Harry and Albus really are.
Like any good story in the Harry Potter world, children learning about magic get into situations that fly high over their heads and aren't quite prepared to deal with the consequences. The shadow of he who shall not be named and all he's done weighs heavy over every character in the play, but none more so than Harry. And how has this affected his ability to be a good father?
That might be the central question of the play. This is a much more mature story than has previously been told in the Potterverse, with the struggle of parenting universal. How does one take such tragic, damaging circumstances from their youth and build a foundation for parenthood? It's a question I struggle with constantly, granted my upbringing might not have been as challenging as Harry's. The things I loved about the story are, by and large, the same things I loved most about "Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens." Will Harry go down the path of Han Solo? Or will he turn out to be a better father than that?
The play, divided into two parts, each part interrupted by its own intermission, weaves these themes throughout a backdrop of exactly the sort of things you might expect from a "Harry Potter" story, but seeing it play out on stage was nothing short of incredible. (I wanted to write "magical" right there but restrained myself. Barely.) For those able to see the play, I would recommend it highly. If you're going to experience the story for the first time once, choose the play over reading it. The acting is superb: they literally couldn't have cast the play better, save for bringing back the actors from the films. Particularly good is Alex Price, who brings an adult Draco Malfoy to life. Between his portrayal and the work he's given to do in the story, I felt this was the first time Rowling begins to keep her promises about where Draco's character was heading. And he's given a new dimension that made him one of my favorite characters.
The actors behind Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny are all top notch as well, but the show is really stolen in the hands of Sam Clemmett (Albus Potter) and Anthony Boyle (Scorpius Malfoy.) They take us through more than a couple of years of Hogwarts, getting into the same sort of trouble their parents might have. But Rowling, et al, are able to give us surprise after surprise, keeping their stories fresh and unexpected.
The staging of the play is extraordinary. Gothic arches make up much of the scenery, as do rolling staircases and a Hogwarts Express made up of luggage. They get a lot of use out of projectors to throw images on walls in much the same way Disneyland uses against their castle. It's a necessity for the production in order to handle time travel as adeptly as they do.
You read that right.
I don't want to say more about that other than to suggest you re-read books four and five before you tackle "The Cursed Child." And maybe throw in "Back to the Future II," for good measure.
As for the story itself, which will be available to everyone in script format on July 31st, it's everything I wanted from a continuation of Harry Potter's story, while not putting him in the spotlight completely. Make no mistake, he plays a central role in the story, but it's really more Albus and Scorpius standing center stage.
For me, it ranks up with "The Prisoner of Azkaban" for my favorite Potter story. It's that good.
But I don't want to say much more. At the intermission of the play, they handed out buttons that said, "Keep the secrets." I intend to do that until you've all had a chance to see it or read it for yourself. Afterward, I imagine there are going to be a lot of deep conversations happening.
For my experience, able to witness it through the play, I couldn't imagine a more perfect story. I spent much of the play crying. I'm not even the biggest "Harry Potter" fan out there and it was bringing me to tears. It was an exhausting, emotional experience and I couldn't have asked for anything better. 10 out of 10.
"Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" is running now in London and will be available in script form on July 31, 2016.