There’s such a wave of nostalgia based programming these days that it’s really getting tiresome. I think there is something special in just letting a thing exist for the time it was supposed to exist. Gilmore Girls had a nice, solid run for seven years. My thirst for creator Amy Sherman-Palladino’s ‘final four words” made me crave a reunion that was mostly unnecessary. I just heard one of my favorite shows of all time (Roseanne) was mulling a new series. Please don’t. Not everything needs to come back. Not Friday Night Lights. Not Battlestar Galactica. Not Buffy. Just leave them be and move on.
I was never a huge fan of the Harry Potter universe. I came about it quite randomly. A friend forced me to see the fifth movie. It was the first one I saw, and while I wasn’t blown away by the universe, I do have this insatiable desire for long continuity. This is why I can spend hours reading about a soap opera I’ve never cared for just to see where the characters came from after only reading through the closed captions while it plays overhead at the gym.
After that first (fifth) Harry Potter film, I bought all seven books (the seventh had just come out and the Potterverse was definitely having a moment in the spotlight) and read them within a week. I went back and watched the first four movies. I watched the sixth, seventh, and eighth films when they came out. My memories of the film are definitely mixed with the books in a way that I can’t delineate between the two. I wasn’t eager to learn more, I thought the worst part of the last best movie was the 19 years later epilogue. So when I got tickets for the play that picked up with that scene, it wasn’t out of any sense of interest or obligation. A couple friends of mine, true Potter fans, wanted to go. And it’s always more fulfilling watching something with people that supremely happy about it (it’s the same way to baseball games with my friend Eric who is like a kid, well, at a baseball game).
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a play (in two parts, over consecutive nights) that concerns mostly Harry’s middle child -Albus Severus Potter- and his first years at Hogwarts, trying to fit in while not being particularly gifted, but still carrying the heavy burden of the legacy of his father and his namesakes. He befriends Scorpius Malfoy, son of Harry nemesis Draco, and Scorpius becomes the Ron to Albus’ Harry. And then there’s a lot of time travel and hand wringing over bad parenting.
The Potter play isn’t a bad play. It’s just not a necessary play. It doesn’t tackle anything new, but it is consistently entertaining. Over two nights it dazzled with impressive production and staging and fun and challenging ways of representing magic in our hopelessly muggle world. It features some great acting, particularly from Norma Dumezweni (Hermione), Jamie Parker (Harry), and Anthony Boyle (Scorpius) – incidentally all recent Olivier winners – as well as Sam Clemmett (Albus) and Annabel Baldwin (Moaning Myrtle).
The play is filled with highlights: Ron and Hermione’s playful relationship, the Moaning Myrtle scene, the kids vs. the bookcase, the way they managed the staging for the polyjuice potion scenes, the sweet relationship between Albus and Draco, and the marked point of Neville Longbottom being the most important person in the Potter universe (a theory I developed after rewatching the original series).
I had a good time revisiting this universe. And being amidst people who were genuinely aghast when I didn’t know what house I was I found endearing (turns out it’s Slytherin. I took the test later that night). It is nice to know that Rowling can extend her universe into different venues. It’s a decent play with some expert production, but it’s still a play that has the line “I’m your [spoiler], from the future,” without any irony in the delivery. Certainly worth seeing, though I doubt it’ll be worth remembering any more than the films and books that preceded it. There’s something to be said too, that even after both parts, the titular cursed child is a nicely debated point over who it actually is.
My Grade – B