30 July 2016
Harry Potter and his son Albus Severus Potter
Harry Potter (Literary Series)
J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany
Goodreads Choice Awards Best Fantasy
Jack Thorne plays, Other plays
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a two-part West End stage play written by Jack Thorne and based on an original new story by Thorne, J. K. Rowling, and John Tiffany. Previews of the play began at the Palace Theatre, London on 7 June 2016, and it officially premiered on 30 July 2016. As the first brand-new Wizarding World story in nearly a decade, the rehearsal script, which was not a novelisation of the play, was released and became the official eighth Harry Potter story, taking place mainly in the year 2020, but begins in 2016. The story begins nineteen years after the events of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and follows Harry Potter, now a Ministry of Magic employee, and his younger son Albus Severus Potter who is about to attend Hogwarts.
The play's official synopsis was released by the publisher (Pottermore) on 23 October 2015:
It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn't much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and father of three school-age children.
While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.
While travelling on the Hogwarts Express to begin his first year at Hogwarts, Albus Severus Potter, the second son of Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley, makes an unlikely friend in Slytherin with Scorpius Malfoy, the son of Draco Malfoy and Astoria Greengrass. Surprisingly, Albus is sorted into Slytherin house alongside Scorpius. Both boys are bullied by other students over the next few years, Albus due to his perceived failure to live up to his father, Scorpius due to unproven rumours that he is the son of Lord Voldemort. In addition, Albus and Harry begin to drift apart, owing to Albus's struggles with his father's shadow.
Prior to Albus and Scorpius's fourth year, Harry obtains a prototype of a more powerful version of the Time Turner that allows one to travel back several years into the past. After overhearing Harry refuse Amos Diggory's request to use the Time Turner to prevent Cedric Diggory's death, Albus is inspired to do so himself, and convinces Scorpius to help him. The two boys escape the Hogwarts Express and join forces with Delphi Diggory, Amos's niece, to steal the Time Turner from the office of Hermione Granger, now the Minister for Magic. Knowing that Cedric's death was the result of him winning the Triwizard Tournament alongside Harry, Albus and Scorpius use the Time Turner to travel back to the events of Goblet of Fire and sabotage Cedric during the tournament's first task, in the hope of preventing his victory, but only succeed in creating an alternate reality in which Albus was sorted into Gryffindor, and Ron Weasley and Hermione never got together.
At around the same time, Harry begins to fear that Voldemort may return after his scar begins to hurt again and he starts having Voldemort-related dreams. He eventually becomes convinced that Scorpius is a threat to Albus and tries to have the boys kept apart at Hogwarts, destroying their friendship. Eventually he relents, and Albus and Scorpius reconcile, before deciding to make another attempt to use the Time Turner to change Cedric's fate, this time by humiliating him during the Triwizard Tournament's second task. When Scorpius returns to the present day however, Albus is not with him, and Scorpius finds himself in a reality in which Harry is dead and Voldemort rules the wizarding world.
Scorpius discovers that as a result of his actions, an embittered Cedric joined the Death Eaters and killed Neville Longbottom during the events of Deathly Hallows, preventing him from killing Nagini and allowing Voldemort to win the Battle of Hogwarts. With Harry now dead, Albus subsequently never existed. With the help of Ron, Hermione and Severus Snape, now the final members of a dwindling anti-Voldemort resistance movement, Scorpius is able to use the Time Turner to prevent the interference of Albus and his past self and restore the events of the original timeline. He reunites with Albus, and the two boys are eventually found by their parents, as well as Ron and Hermione. Following these events, Albus and Harry begin to reconcile.
Recognising the danger that the Time Turner poses, Scorpius and Albus attempt to destroy it, but they are taken captive by Delphi, who is revealed to not be Amos's niece, but the daughter of Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange. Delphi attempts to use the Time Turner to bring about the events of the second alternate reality, in which she rules alongside Voldemort, but Albus and Scorpius prevent her from doing so, and Delphi uses the Time Turner to travel back to the night Lily and James Potter were murdered. She inadvertently takes the boys with her, and destroys the Time Turner to leave them stranded in time.
Abandoned by Delphi, Albus and Scorpius write an invisible message on Harry's baby blanket, knowing that in their present, the blanket would become stained with love potion and expose the message to Harry. Harry and his allies receive the message and use a perfected version of the Time Turner owned by Draco (by now friends with Harry due to their mission to save their sons) to travel back in time to them, where they deduce that Delphi intends to convince Voldemort to abandon his doomed attempt to kill Harry, ensuring her father's survival and allowing her to be with him. The group subdue Delphi and allow the murder of Harry's parents to play out, unwilling to risk the consequences of altering the past. After returning to the present day, Delphi is sent to Azkaban Prison for the rest of her life. Harry and Albus visit Cedric's grave, with Harry apologising for his role in Cedric's death.
In December 2013, it was revealed that a stage play based on Harry Potter had been in development for around a year, with the view to bringing it to the stage sometime in 2016. At the time of the announcement, Rowling revealed that the play would "explore the previously untold story of Harry's early years as an orphan and outcast". The following May, Rowling began establishing the creative team for the project.
On 26 June 2015, the project was officially confirmed under the title of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and it was revealed it would receive its world premiere in mid-2016 at London's Palace Theatre. The announcement marked the eighteenth anniversary of the publication of the first Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, published on 26 June 1997.
On announcing plans for the project, Rowling stated that the play would not be a prequel. In response to queries regarding the choice of a play rather than a new novel, Rowling has stated that she "is confident that when audiences see the play they will agree that it is the only proper medium for the story". Rowling has also assured audiences that the play will contain an entirely new story and will not be a rehashing of previously explored content. On 24 September 2015, Rowling announced that the play had been split into two parts. The parts are designed to be viewed on the same day or consecutively over two evenings.
On 23 October, it was confirmed the plays were set nineteen years after the conclusion of the final novel Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and would open at London's Palace Theatre in July 2016. The plays principally follow Harry, now Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and his younger son Albus Severus Potter. As of 22 July, little more had been revealed about the plot even by those who had attended the previews since 7 June.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a two-part play, was written by British playwright Jack Thorne based on an original story by Thorne, John Tiffany and Rowling. Some websites were listing all three as authors of the script but by 26 July 2016, the official web site for the play and many others (including the BBC) were listing Thorne as the sole script writer.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is directed by John Tiffany with choreography by Steven Hoggett, set design by Christine Jones, costume design by Katrina Lindsay, lighting design by Neil Austin, music by Imogen Heap, and sound design by Gareth Fry. In addition, special effects were created by Jeremy Chernick, with illusions by Jamie Harrison, and musical supervision by Martin Lowe.
Previews at the West End Palace Theatre, London began on 7 June 2016, with the official opening night for both parts on 30 July, and originally booking until 18 September 2016. Tickets went on sale to pre-registered priority bookers on 28 October 2015, with a public sale scheduled to commence on 30 October. In just under 8 hours of priority booking 175,000 tickets were sold for the world premiere production, with the play's booking period extended to January 2017. On commencement of the public sale booking was extended until 30 April 2017, with a further extension issued the same day to 27 May 2017. At opening tickets were priced from £30 up to £130 for a ticket for both parts, although ticket resale agencies were selling seats for up to £3,000. Ticket resale has been banned by the producers, with tickets no longer valid if sold on. In mid-July 2016, the theatre began holding a ticket lottery at 1pm each Friday, releasing 40 for sale on their website for 'some of the best seats' in the theatre for the lowest price, advertised at £20 per part. For example, the "Friday Forty" tickets sold on 29 July 2016 were for performances on 3, 5, 6 and 7 August.
The plays are recommended for ages 12 and up. On 20 December 2015, initial casting was announced with Jamie Parker playing Harry Potter, Noma Dumezweni playing Hermione Granger and Paul Thornley playing Ron Weasley. The casting of the dark-skinned Noma Dumezweni as Hermione sparked fervent discussion, to which Rowling responded that Hermione's skin was never specified as white. Further notable casting includes Poppy Miller as Ginny Potter and Sam Clemmett as Albus Severus Potter. The production features an overall cast of 42.
New York Post reported on 22 July 2016 that Broadway insiders say that negotiations are underway for the plays to appear at New York's Lyric Theatre, in 2018.
Both parts of the stage play's script have been released in print and digital formats as Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts I & II.
The first edition, entitled "Special Rehearsal Edition", corresponded to the script used in the preview shows and was scheduled to be published on 31 July 2016, the date of Harry's birthday in the series and Rowling's birthday, as well. Since revisions to the script continued after the book was printed, an edited version will be released in 2017 as the "Definitive Collector's Edition". According to CNN, this was the most preordered book of 2016.
In the US and Canada, the book sold over 2 million copies in its first two days of release. 847,885 copies were sold during the book's first week of release in the United Kingdom.
The Cursed Child has received mixed reviews from critics and fans. Audiences and critics have complimented the casting and performances, while many debate the quality of the piece and how it compares to entries in the main Potter series.
The BBC's article was entitled Harry Potter and the Cursed Child gets five star reviews. Publications awarding five star ratings included The Independent, the London Evening Standard, The Stage and WhatsOnStage.com. The Telegraph also gave five, although "there are some quibbles," while The Guardian's Michael Billington awarded four stars.
Anthony Boyle's performance as Scorpius Malfoy garnered particular acclaim. WhatsOnStage wrote that "Boyle gives a career-making performance," while the Wall Street Journal described him as "the break-out performance." Variety's critic, Matt Trueman, agreed, writing, "it's Boyle who really stands out" and both Trueman and Henry Hitchings, in the Evening Standard, noted that his performance was sure to be a fan favourite.
According to the product descriptions of a number of booksellers, the book of the script has been nominated for the Holden-Crowther Book Award 2016.
There are many negative reviews to the story as well. The Federalist writes, "it’s an awkward, uncomfortable shadow of the witty repartee Rowling furnished her characters with in the original series." and suggests "don’t bother... buying a copy: you’re not missing anything."
Response within the Harry Potter fandom
Reviews within the fandom were mixed. Some fans complained that the story diverged from previously established rules of the universe, criticizing the play's characterization. Some also took issue with the style and plot of the play, in that it more resembled a work of fan fiction than an original story. These criticisms have led some of the fandom to reject the play as separate from the Potter canon. YouTube reviewer and filmmaker Austin McConnell pointed out that while the Harry Potter books were presented as "mystery books disguised as fantasy books", the new book is presented as a "time travel book disguised as a Harry Potter book". He further stated that while the book still has Harry Potter in the title, he is barely in the play and that it makes the original trio "clueless, hapless and profoundly unproductive", adding that the new book forces a new trio of heroes that you barely get to know and lacked development for the original characters.
However, other fans responded positively to the play and its characters, with Scorpius Malfoy being particularly popular. Some fans commented that the dialogue between the familiar characters was "spot on." Others fans have noted that the play sheds light on some of the relationships between the characters, such as Harry and Dumbledore's. The response had been particularly positive among fans who watched the play on stage.