Welcome to Book Buds! To commemorate our first post we’ve decided to do an extra-specially long group review. This summer we were all lucky enough to get to go see the production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts I & II at the Palace Theatre in London. We’ve gathered together some of our thoughts and opinions on the experience below the read more.
SPOILER WARNING: The following review contains major spoilers for both the plot and production details of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child as well as the Harry Potter series in general. Read on at your own discretion.
Note: This is a review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child as performed at the Palace Theatre not the published script of the play. While plot details found in the script are discussed, bear in mind our opinions are influenced by the experience of seeing the production on stage.
Seriously, turn back now if you don’t want to be spoiled!
Michelle: Aside from old favourite characters this play is very heavily focused on the new characters of Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy. What did we think of them and their relationship?
Kate: I loved their friendship. I liked that they showed that kind of strong friendship between Slytherins, who were just portrayed as cronies and opportunists before.
Hayley: I also liked that they tried to show Slytherin in a good light. I think in some way the play was an attempt to make Slytherin look a bit better. After all the horrid things from the books with Death Eaters and Voldemort they could have just put Albus in Gryffindor and Scorpius in Slytherin. However, it was nice to see the faults of those in Slytherin and their attempt to try and make the world better (as awful as that turned out), because people are flawed. Gryffindor has often come across as very moral, very perfect, very brave. So it was super nice to see Slytherin as people rather as villains.
Elen: I think that was definitely one of the effects but I don’t know how much of it was intentional. JKR has always seemed pretty set on the ‘most Slytherins are terrible’ school of thought. I don’t know about the other scriptwriters though. It was an interesting perspective though, especially because Albus hated Hogwarts so much so it was interesting to see a different view from the original books where pretty much everyone thinks Hogwarts is the fabbest place on earth.
Kate: I liked that they appeared to be committed to showing a different perspective of Hogwarts (Slytherins being nicer/Albus not enjoying his time there) but I don’t think the whole play was motivated by the idea of defending Slytherin, after all Albus and Scorpius did muck everything up in the first place. I think possibly they showed that the Slytherins of Harry’s time at Hogwarts were influenced more by their parents and the prominent beliefs of the time rather than being inherently evil, as they showed that Scorpius might have acted in a similar horrible fashion if he had grown up around Death Eater views.
Elen: Although how the hell did Al and Scorp end up in Slytherin? They seemed more like Hufflepuffs to me.
Michelle: I thought Scorpius was great, as was Albus actor-wise. I agree that Scorpius didn’t seem like a Slytherin personality-wise though.
Elen: I’m on the fence about Scorpius as a character. He felt like he was being written by two different people. Half the time he was hyper and socially awkward and the rest he was someone who pretty much had it together. It just didn’t gel for me.
Michelle: For someone so supposedly smart he made a lot of stupid decisions.
Rosie: I think the actor did really well, but his writing wasn’t great.
Elen: Yeah my problem was largely with the writing. There were a couple of face-palm worthy decisions.
Rosie: He wasn’t manipulative enough to be Slytherin. He had smarts sometimes, but not Slytherin-worthy smarts.
Kate: I agree about Scorpius not seeming too Slytherin-y, but I guess he could have asked the hat to go there because his family was Slytherin?
Elen: That’s what I think, that he decided everyone was just going to hate him anyway so asked the hat to just stick him in Slytherin.
Kate: I wish they had delved a little bit more into his crisis over being evil when he was popular in the darkest timeline as that showed that maybe he did have more bad Slytherin tendencies.
Elen: Yeah, now he knows he’s capable of doing terrible things just like his dad was.
Kate: I think a scene where he shows that he now understands how his dad might have acted that way would be nice. Maybe it needs a novelization to expand upon these things.
Elen: I could go for that.
Rosie: The whole play feels like that. It feels like they couldn’t decide which idea to go with so they chose ALL OF THEM.
Michelle: Yes, yes, Rosie, EXACTLY! Pick one plot and stick to it! I’d much rather have one thing in depth than lots of threads explored in a shallow way.
Elen: I think the plot point I had the biggest problem with was the idea that people were running around thinking Scorpius Malfoy was Voldy’s kid because, let’s be real, that was dumb. It felt like it was only there to explain why Draco wouldn’t hand over his Time Turner immediately.
Kate: I actually buy that, it seems like exactly the kind of thing Rita Skeeter would make up.
Rosie: I can see that.
Hayley: My biggest issue was with the implied future romance between Scorpius and Rose. No, just no.
Elen: I can buy Scorpius and Rose in general but I feel like it was written very poorly and pretty cliche.
Michelle: I’m mainly angry about Scorpius and Rose because it felt like it was there to distance Albus and Scorpius who SHOULD HAVE BEEN GAY!
Hayley: They should have been. The relationship was more than friendly. I get dependency on friends (look at us) but it was definitely more.
Kate: I didn’t mind that they didn’t include a great declaration of love between them, but the Rose/Scorpius stuff was entirely unnecessary and smacked of #nohomo.
Rosie: It did!
Kate: Also why would he like her? She was rude and unpleasant to him for no reason except nasty rumours and prejudice. I wish Rose had gotten some kind of comeuppance or learned to be nicer or something.
Elen: I agree that Rose had some pretty crappy personality traits, she reminded me of a post going round the internet a while back which argued that Gryffindor would actually have been the gung-ho blood purity house.
Michelle: I found it very odd for Rose to behave like that considering her parents.
Elen: I did feel bad for the poor actress, when she was cast everyone everyone was thrilled and expected great things and she was only in it about five minutes.
Michelle: Rose should have been the third member of the gang! More stage time and a hopefully more well developed character!
Hayley: The problem I had with Rose was that she almost behaved more like that stereotypical Slytherin and Scorpius was so much more understanding and kind. She was rude and prejudiced and by no means open minded – he was. Which made Albus and Scorpius’ relationship more interesting to watch because they were distanced from her. But they should have been together. Friends but more than friends, which is what it felt like anyway, they didn’t need to be overtly out or kiss or anything sexual but the atmosphere was more than friends.
Rosie: I don’t know where it came from, I’d happily watch a whole play about Scorpius and Albus settling in and dealing with their father’s ambitions because that would be interesting as a story and interesting as a Harry Potter continuation.
Michelle: The staircase scene made my heart bleed for them. It honestly felt like more than friendship.
Rosie: That was SUCH a good scene.
Michelle: The staging as a whole saved the plays for me.
Kate: I agree with Hayley. Just leave the possibility there, maybe have them going to the dance together at the end and don’t necessarily clarify whether its as friends or something more.
Elen: Let’s move on to discussing the plot of the play, especially some of its more polarizing aspects. What did everyone think of Delphi as a villain and the reveal that she is allegedly Voldemort and Bellatrix’s daughter?
Rosie: I didn’t like it. As someone else pointed out to me, Voldemort having any sexuality takes away from the darkness of it all and makes him a bit jokey.
Hayley: He wasn’t a sexual being at all. The idea of Voldy and Bellatrix was ridiculous as their relationship was never romantic.
Elen: I think she was in love with him, but Voldy always read asexual to me. I mean he literally didn’t understand love because he was conceived under the influence of a love potion. I think the idea of him having a child just undermines his whole character and it takes away from what made him really scary, he just didn’t understand human emotions.
Kate: Aside from the obvious of Voldy’s non-sexuality being arguably a large part of his character in contrast to Harry, it just feels so tacked on after the fact and makes no sense with what we know of the events of Deathly Hallows. Bellatrix was not in his best graces during Deathly Hallows when said baby making was supposed to be going down. He criticises her for her family not being pure enough because of Tonks and Lupin, so why would he choose to have a child with someone he didn’t regard as good enough? Why would he be sending out his pregnant girlfriend on dangerous missions like the one at the beginning of Deathly Hallows? And Draco was living with Bellatrix when she was supposedly pregnant and giving birth and yet he just didn’t notice? Or did he just fail to mention to anyone that Voldemort had an heir who wasn’t Scorpius?
Elen: Yeah, the timelines of that pregnancy are super whack.
Rosie: As nobody buys that relationship, would there have been a better way for them to include Delphi as a villain in the plot?
Hayley: It would have better if she was just an insane fanatic who had romanticised Voldy. I think it would be an interesting insight to the world of mental health in the Wizarding World too.
Michelle: Ooh Hayley, I like that.
Kate: Here’s my theory – Rodolphus Lestrange returns from Azkaban (which – he didn’t get a life sentence?) then picks the abandoned child of random Death Eaters to raise as ‘Voldemort’s heir’ in a Lambert Simnel-style plot to garner renewed support for the cause. Then he… dies? (it’s not really explained why he’s no longer involved in Delphi’s plot) and the child grows up fanatically believing his lies. How can she speak Parseltongue? Simple, a genetic throwback like Astoria’s illness, as half the wizarding world is inbred anyway.
Rosie: THAT I can buy.
Elen: Yeah, that was another thing – they let Lestrange out? Why would you?
Michelle: HE GOT LET OUT? I missed that bit.
Rosie: If he managed it though, I can believe that he convinced a deluded kid that she’s the daughter of the Dark Lord.
Elen: Yep, Rodolphus Lestrange is clearly a master manipulator who had the parole board eating out of his hand.
Michelle: I like Kate’s theory. I like the idea that she’s deluded herself because of the environment she was raised in.
Elen: I think even if they had made it ambiguous – ‘was she his kid or not, we’ll never know’ – it would have been better.
Rosie: I think that’s what bothered me. They could have left it open and it would have been a lot more interesting.
Kate: Maybe it’s just my desperate need to believe it’s not true, but I think it was somewhat ambiguous. The only confirmation is Harry-as-Voldy saying she looked a little like Bellatrix which he could have lied about, and parseltongue which I explained away above. Oh, and her flying power (I believe Snape also had that in the books?), which looked awful on stage thanks to those silly feather sleeves.
Elen: Oh dear that feather jacket, so 2000s
Kate: We get she can fly, she doesn’t need to look like a bird too
Hayley: The feathers. Don’t get me started on the feathers
Rosie: I’m guessing that stuff was aimed at a younger audience to make it super obvious. And they did, they really beat us over the head with the bird stuff
Michelle: SHE BIRD. SHE FLY. CAW CAW MOTHERFUCKER.
Hayley: I’m confused as to what an Augury is… What was the point in this word? It was only important in the prophecy but wasn’t really explained. What is the point in using this mythical term? Why does it mean she can fly? What is the importance of the Augury? Did it actually add anything to the storyline? I don’t think so. And the cliche use of the tattoo was useless just to enforce this ‘Augury’ idea. The character was intimidating enough just as the daughter of Voldemort.
Kate: According to wiki Augury is the practice of predicting the future from the flight patterns of birds or an omen so it doesn’t mean anything about her being able to fly. Basically I think it was intended to point to her prophesied role and give her a non-distinct name by which she could be referred to in the dark universe. It did sound dumb though, especially with the added tattoo and feather sleeves.
Elen: I think they just put it in so she could have a cool nickname. The whole Augury thing confused me though, because from the way they talked about it in the darkest timeline I thought it was a kind of council like an evil version of the Ministry.
Kate: I initially thought it was some kind of organisation too. The Augury is such a bad nickname though. Ugh, go for Lady Voldemort or something even though that’s terrible too. Also it bugged me that her name was Delphini because it didn’t see like the kind of mega-pretentious name Voldy would give his child.
Elen: I honestly spent most of the play thinking it was Delphine and everyone was insisting on pronouncing it wrong. I would’ve like them to explore if she was evil because of Voldy’s genes, or because of her upbringing? It would have been interesting to go into that. Perhaps it would have been possible if the reveal had happened a bit earlier.
Kate: Wasn’t there a brief mention of her caretaker being somewhat abusive? Which makes her an interesting parallel to Harry tbh – brought up by uncaring families, he has a great destiny but doesn’t know it, she thinks she has one but doesn’t actually.
Elen: Yeah, I think she said her caretaker was always saying she’d come to a sticky end just like Petunia Dursley in Philosopher’s Stone.
Michelle: I wanted to know more about Delphi actually. I thought they were too rushed saying she’s Voldy’s daughter therefore SHE IS EVIL. That’s not enough! Give me more info about her. And give her more stage time! If the reveal was earlier as Elen said, they could have also had Delphi flashbacks?
Elen: Ooh maybe if they swapped the Harry flashbacks for Delphi flashbacks in the second half?
Rosie: That would have been so cool!
Michelle: We need to rewrite this, guys.
Kate: Yes! Show us Rodolphus and her guardian filling her head with evil thoughts and make her more sympathetic.
Rosie: My last thoughts are that the actress playing Delphi could not carry a villain role (especially a villain as dark and evil as the CHILD OF THE DARK LORD) and it came off feeling a bit panto.
Kate: Yeah, I would’ve liked someone more menacing.
Elen: And with better dress sense.
Rosie: I’d be much more lenient on the whole deal if she was more sinister. And less Big Bird.
Michelle: Okay let’s move on to another topic. A lot of the plot hinges around preventing Cedric Diggory’s death which I thought was quite random. Why Cedric Diggory of all the many characters who were killed?!
Kate: I understand Cedric, after all he was the first major death and also he didn’t choose to fight Voldy like the others who died did. #justiceforhedwig, though.
Elen: I think Cedric because he has a lot of fans and a lot of people are still pissed about how he died.
Hayley: He was Voldy’s comeback kill. The spare.
Michelle: I kind of get why they chose Cedric – he’s a seemingly pointless death but even in trying to save him, Albus and Scorpius alter so many things in the present – you can’t even save him because every death happened for a reason.
Kate: I think the emphasis on the idea that every death matters in the grander scheme may have been JKR’s way of silencing people who are still upset about Fred/Tonks/Lupin/Hedwig/Dobby etc.
Rosie: I did really like Cedric in the play though. Good acting, good lines.
Hayley: Both plays use lots of flashbacks to Harry’s childhood and time travel to previous events, some of which we had seen before. Did you think this made some of it repetitive or did it add another dimension to the story?
Rosie: The scene with Hagrid and Harry’s first meeting was so unnecessary. I don’t get why they included it.
Kate: Same. I love Hagrid but in my opinion he should’ve been cut.
Elen: I agree, the ‘yer a wizard’ scene went on way too long. It’s iconic, yes, but we’ve all seen it.
Kate: Yeah, we’ve seen it in both book and film.
Rosie: It felt like filler.
Elen: I think they put it in because it’s well loved rather than purposely as filler, but it was definitely unnecessary.
Rosie: We all know it. It was done well in the film. Let’s not ruin that.
Elen: Ugh, the film version is perfect.
Kate: Yes, the film version was perf and no one can touch Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid.
Michelle: I liked the flashbacks we haven’t seen before.
Kate: The second was okay, but it contradicted canon as Harry doesn’t remember anything but green light and certainly not the Avada Kedavra curse words.
Elen: I did like the one at the graveyard.
Kate: I really liked the one with Aunt Petunia at the grave.
Michelle: Aunt Petunia is generally great.
Elen: I liked how they added a little more to her character but it totally fits with everything we’ve seen before.
Rosie: She had a bit more sympathy which was nice. I mean Lily was her sister. I cried at Harry watching shit go down at Godric’s Hollow.
Michelle: Godric’s Hollow was soooo sad.
Kate: I didn’t mind the last flashback to baby Harry either, but the terrible Hagrid makeup really detracted from it.
Rosie: I really didn’t get that scene with baby Harry. It could have gone straight to Harry and Albus.
Michelle: I thought it was so it ended slightly happier?
Kate: It was a little odd. I get friendship was a major theme, but like Hagrid wasn’t even in it aside from flashbacks so focusing one of the last scenes on his friendship with Harry was odd?
Rosie: I think it went too lighthearted too quickly. It would have been nice to let the sad scene sit for a bit. Actually even if you swapped them round so it actually ended with Hagrid. It would have given the Godric’s Hollow scene more power.
Michelle: Yeah, that’s true.
Kate: Yeah, showing there’s hope and taking us right back to before the first scene of the first book.
Elen: What about the time travel?
Michelle: Time travel was a HOT MESS. I know there aren’t rules for time travel, but it just made no sense.
Rosie: YEAH IT WAS A REALLY HOT MESS
Kate: I looooove time travel stories especially alternate universes, but just don’t use the Time Turners if you’ve already established how they work! Invent another kind of time magic.
Elen: The Time Turners were so inconsistent. First you can only go back an hour but also everyone believes Draco Malfoy went back ten years?
Hayley: And as Jo pointed out when they went back in time they were in a world of legal Time Turners – why didn’t they use one of them to get back? Or at least get a bit forward!
Rosie: Also, did we get an explanation as to why Albus was in Gryffindor?
Michelle: They skimmed over how that one thing changed EVERYTHING.
Elen: I think they said he did it to spite his cousin or something.
Michelle: *rolls eyes*
Elen: I know it was dumb.
Kate: I like the banality of the first alternate universe, while little of real consequence has changed – Albus is a Gryffindor and Ron and Hermione aren’t married, it has far reaching personal consequences that really work. I loved the classic ‘darkest timeline’/mirror-verse second one though, it gave the opportunity for an excellent cliff hanger and pushed the play’s most likable character to the forefront of the action. The appearance of Umbridge played well to fans and also highlighted the absolute evil to this new universe. (Though again canon issues arise, shouldn’t she be DATDA teacher and Snape the head?) Ron, Hermione and Snape’s sacrifices to the Dementors give the situation real gravitas. Scorpius’s soul-searching over his counterparts evil deeds now that he was popular was truly interesting and merited more exploration.
Elen: Yep, I loved the alternate universes. I want a whole play in the dark universe.
Rosie: Yeah, so much more could have been done with the dark universe.
Kate: If they do make a film trilogy I hope one whole film is set in that universe.
Rosie: You guys wanna talk about the actual production?
Michelle: I enjoyed watching them, visually they were stunning.
Elen: Best visual everyone? For me it has to be the Dementors closing part one.
Michelle: I LOVED the time travel wobbly effect thing. Every time I gasped.
Rosie: The UV writing on the wall in Delphi’s room.
Kate: YES the UV writing. So unexpected & so good.
Elen: Ooh yeah especially for us sitting next to the pillar where it was right up close.
Michelle: Also the polyjuice potion (even though I have issues with its usage, because how did they sneak it into the Ministry of Magic? Surely there’s a protection spell in place to prevent something like that from happening) the actual transformation was funny and clever!
Kate: It’s not an effect but I also loved the logos for the houses and evil Hogwarts.
Elen: How did people feel about the swishy cloak dancing? Cool transition or filler?
Rosie: A bit of both.
Michelle: I liked the dancing and music a lot!
Rosie: I think once was cool, twice was a bit swishy.
Michelle: It was slight filler, but hey I’m biased I love me an inexplicable and seemingly pointless dance number *jazz hands*
Kate: I liked it, it reminded me of the Durmstrang and Beauxbatons dances from the films. Also I loooved the soundtrack I need an OST stat.
Elen: True I liked the evil Hogwarts one but I felt it went on too long.
Kate: Yeah, some of them went on a little too long.
Rosie: Something was up with the spotlights though. When the kid got Avada Kedavra’d the spot missed him and drifted over while he died. And the spot on Delphi’s face was really tight so you could literally just see her face and nothing else.
Kate: Also – I already said my bit about Delphi’s feather sleeves, but on other costuming notes Ginny’s outfit was horrendous and Hagrid’s makeup was a travesty. Dumbledore in his iconic getup got me emotional though.
Elen: Ooh dear, Ginny, what can I say. That outfit was heinous.
Kate: MORE DOWDY THAN AUNT PETUNIA
Michelle: Hagrid was poorly done – costume I mean, Acting was ok.
Elen: Dumbledore was fab I felt. Yeah, Hagrid’s wig was just bad.
Kate: Acting was fine, but omg that wig and that sad attempt at the beard.
Elen: Did they use up all the budget on Scorp and Delphi?
Michelle: Haha, maybe.
Kate: What about the actors? Did you guys think they did well (aside from Delphi)? Or were there too many problems with the characterisation?
Rosie: I thought Harry was perfect.
Elen: Harry was fab. Also shout out to Ron’s actor, who I thought did really well with a character I know a lot of people hate.
Kate: Yeah I liked Harry, even though he was written very unsympathetically at times the actor really sold it.
Elen: Yep, I really bought what Harry was doing even when he was being dumb.
Kate: I legit gasped when he said he wished Albus wasn’t his kid though, that was way harsh, Tai.
Rosie: I felt it was good actors reading bad lines.
Kate: I had the biggest problem with Ron. His characterisation lacked any depth beyond comic relief (even in serious scenes like when he and Hermione sacrifice themselves to Dementors or the gang faces down the Augury) and his character is more ‘Hermione’s husband’ than a useful and pro-active member of the cast.
Elen: He had the best lines but the least to do.
Kate: He and Harry barely interact too when they’re supposed to be bffs?
Michelle: Ron is ALWAYS reduced to comic relief. In the films and play.
Elen: Ron is my actual fave, it makes me sad how he’s always shunted by the adaptations.
Rosie: I wish they’d ended on their second wedding. That would have been sweet and fitting. And actually I totally thought they were going to.
Hayley: Did we want Lily and James Junior to be more involved? Personally I would have been more invested in the family dynamic if I could have seen Harry as a father in comparison to Lily and James and then with Albus. By no means am I suggesting that Scorpius and Rose were invalid characters to the plot, but in the times where they used the flashy dances as fillers I would much rather have seen more of the family. Even some sort of relationship between Albus and James or Albus and Lily would have been awesome.
Kate: Ehh, I didn’t mind their lack of involvement too much, I think they wanted to established how isolated Albus was apart from Scorpius so giving him a strong relationship with his siblings may not have worked for that theme. From what we saw he and James appeared to have a similar relationship to Ron and Fred and George with him often being teased by him. He and Lily may simply not have had a lot in common/been particularly close. Kinda like Ron and Ginny weren’t too close before the war drew them together.
Elen: Lily was virtually a non character, honestly. While I might have wanted to see more of the dynamic between the whole family the play was pretty overstuffed as it was so I can see why they may not have included those parts.
Kate: I did have some problems with the writing for the female characters. The plot revolves largely around the male characters (Albus, Scorpius and Harry) and even the female villain is mostly concerned with impressing her father. Plus Draco’s wife Astoria lives and dies off-stage, presumably stuffed in Malfoy Manor’s refrigerator.
Michelle: Definitely agree with you Kate, very much centered towards the male characters, which is why I would have loved more of Delphi’s back story (with all of our excellent suggestions for how the Delphi flashbacks should be done) and also Rose, who had so much potential but was poorly used and overly cruel. She’s a Weasley-Granger! She was raised better than that, surely!
Kate: So, while it’s been marketed as the official eighth Potter book, a lot of people have written The Cursed Child off as extra to the series’ canon. What are your thoughts? Is this canon for you?
Michelle: I think I may just view it as an extra non-canon thing as JK didn’t write it (and the plot was a bit shit).
Kate: I agree, for me the first seven books are the main canon and this is more of an expanded universe extra like Pottermore. Or perhaps a better comparison would be something like the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics, which, despite being sanctioned by Joss Whedon, also take the story in some very odd directions.
Rosie: Before we finish up, have you heard they’re planning a film trilogy of this.
Michelle: Oh my god Rosie *face palm* cash cow anyone?
Elen: Ugh nooo
Michelle: A trilogy?! It’s in two bloody parts??!?
Kate: A film will not work in my opinion.
Elen: Maybe if they do different stories from their time at Hogwarts?
Elen: Okay finally, rating out of five?
Kate: Ooooh tough one…
Rosie: It’s hard, I almost want to rate the play and the script separately.
Elen: Great visual effects let down by a holey plot and an uneven script. I’m going with a solid 3.5/5.
Rosie: Exactly. And for the most part great acting too.
Kate: I agree, the script is poor and full of holes (and whither Ron’s character depth?) but the effects/music/production was amazing.
Rosie: Production 4.5/5. Script 2/5. So overall like a 3.5?
Kate: I might rate the script lower honestly. There were good moments but every important plot point was hung on a plot hole or inconsistency.
Rosie: That’s true. Overall pretty shoddy writing.
Hayley: I’d say script 2/5 and production 4.5-5/5. Overall 3-3.5.
Michelle: Script 2 or 2.5/5. Production 5/5. Best I’ve ever seen on stage. Overall… 3? 3.5?
Kate: I think script 1.5/5 and production 4.5/5 (points docked for the Hagrid wig) so 3/5 overall.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was written by J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany and directed by John Tiffany.
Featured Image: Production still from the Palace Theatre production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child © Manuel Harlan.