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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (spoiler alert)

Took me awhile, but I finally read all four acts of the play.

First thought:  reading the play is not at all like reading the novels.  Rowlings' distinctive, magical prose is nowhere to be found. Well, I shouldn't say "nowhere", but for the most part, the set descriptions and stage directions are very straightforward and practical.

Becca, one of the biggest Harry Potter fans on the planet, didn't like Cursed Child.  She  felt that the characters in the play were not the same people she grew to love in the novels and the movies.  She felt the Rowlings' collaborators drifted away from her original concepts.

I disagree with her assessment.  But I look at the story from a very different viewpoint than my daughter does.

First of all, I am more familiar with the literary treatment of time travel and alternate realities.  I mean, we've all seen It's a Wonderful Life, how everyone's situation changed because George Bailey was never born.  And then, of course, there are the Back To The Future movies. I have read a lot of science fiction, I am a huge fan of Star Trek, Dark Shadows, and more recently, Dr. Who.  When people read Prisoner of Askeban  and asked "If they could go back in time and save Sirius and Buckbeak, why couldn't they rescue Lily and James Potter?", I was filling in the gaps, thinking about that Star Trek episode "City on the Edge of Forever", I was hearing Voyager's Captain Janeway complain that time travel gives her a headache.

As for the characters...

When Becca was in college, she fulfilled one of her philosophy requirements by taking a class where major philosophical ideas were discussed in the context of the Harry Potter novels.  One of her assignments was to write an essay about love, using illustrations from the novels.   She allowed me to read the essay.  Her focus was on the love between Harry and Ron and Hermione, the love between Harry and ginny, etc.  She "got" the whole "Lilly saves Harry through love" aspect of the story, but her focus was clearly on the younger characters. 

My mind went straight to Molly Weasley and her children.  But I'm an adult, a mother.  My real-life focus is very different than Becca's.  I don't think she was happy to see her favorites all grown up, thinking and acting like adults.

So when I see Harry having a difficult relationship with Albus -- the crux of the story in Cursed Child -- I can relate.  I have also had difficult moments with my children, I've also said things to them I wish I hadn't said.  Harry as the parent of a teenager isn't really that different from Harry as a teenager.    The self-doubt, the angst, it hasn't gone away, it's just been refocused. 

The play is written in two parts/four acts, and I had most of it figured out by the middle of the second act.  The events of Goblet of Fire are pivotal to the Harry Potter story, and changing the outcome of those events results in major changes to the present, none of them for the better.  Through it all, love and friendship endure.  And redemption comes, not just to the Potters, but to the Malfoys as well. I am really fond of Scorpius Malfoy, Draco's son is everything Draco was not.

The climax of the play takes place in Godric's Hollow in 1981.  If you want to change the timeline, you have to go back to the very beginning, after all. 

Overall I thought it was an interesting play, but part of me wishes Rowlings would have just left  off with Deathly Hallows....

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