It's 19 years since the battle of Hogwarts, and the Boy-Who-Lived is now a husband, father, and head of his own department. But though Voldemort's long gone, all is not well in the wizarding world. There's movement in the outer realms, a gathering of dark magic, and Harry himself is being tortured by potent dreams. And to top it all off, his shaky relationship with his son, Albus, a Syltherin fourth-year, is being exacerbated by Albus's friendship with Scorpius Malfoy. When Albus and Scorpius go missing, Harry, Hermione, Ron, Malfoy, and Ginny are called to battle once again - but this time, it may not be their's for the winning.
When J. K. Rowling said that the Harry Potter story was complete with book seven, we would have done well to take her at her word.
Let's start with the pros: almost everything that you like about the Potter world is back in Cursed Child - riddles, wands, brooms, time-travel, witty comebacks, and themes of sacrifice and friendship. Your favorite characters have returned and in pretty good form, too: Ginny, Hermione, and Prof. McGonagall are terrific as always, and Harry himself has aged nicely into a 40-year-old. Ron comes across more like the cinematic character than the book form, but is still good for a laugh or two. Its fun to see them as established adults, with families and jobs: rather like running into old friends that you haven't seen in a while, but remain exactly the same for all the time that's passed.
But at it's best, Cursed Child is fun only in the way that fan-fiction is: a throwback with some new players, but adding nothing substantial to the cannon. (Note: one could argue that the Big Reveal is adding to the cannon - I would agree, but counter-argue that it was cliche and the Potter fandom deserved better.) The twisty mystery that was at the core of every Potter book is thin here and some of the charm is lost as a result. Despite the warnings to 'keep the secrets', there's nothing new here, nothing revelatory, and certainly nothing that would surprise anyone who read the first seven books. Looking back, I honestly don't know what secrets they're imploring play-goers to keep - everything in here has either been covered in Pottermore or by you and your friends over a mug of butter beer back in 2010.
While there are moments of fun and the original characters are solid, the father-son relationship is tiresome, the emotional subplots heavy handed, and the Big Reveal is no shock to anyone who's seen as many non-essential sequels as I have (to date, I'm the only one I know who actually enjoyed Beyond the Poseidon Adventure - I rock that way). The story suffers, in part, from brevity: we are unable to bond with the sulky Albus and perky Scorpius the way we were with Harry, Hermione, and Ron because this is only a script, not a series of novels. But even allowing for this, Cursed Child is momentarily diverting, but ultimately unnecessary.
Agree? Disagree? Comment below and let me know what you thought of the newest Harry Potter!