Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: A Dissection of the Happy Ending (Review)

I HAVE ALWAYS hated the epilogue in Deathly Hallows. No, no, you don’t understand, I hate the epilogue in Deathly Hallows to the point where I used to sit in bed sometimes, unable to sleep, thinking about how stupid the whole thing is. It was worse still when the film came about and Daniel Radcliffe’s face, complete with super-imposed stubble, was branded into my memory. It was just too sweet, too perfect. Watching happily married Harry in his happy marriage with his happy children named after our favourite dead characters felt, and I appreciate that I’m talking about a world of werewolves and magic wands, unrealistic.

J.K. Rowling has often talked about the ‘under-pinning logic’ beneath the Harry Potter world. It’s this concept that keeps any fantasy story working. Amongst the fantastical, something has to make sense. What made the wizarding war so relatable was that it held the hallmarks of real warfare; it was dark, it was scary and innocent people died.

So the epilogue’s ‘and they all lived happily ever after’ moment left me cold. Thank God, then, for The Cursed Child, an addition to the series that I initially voiced a fair bit of sceptism towards. Jamie Parker’s Harry Potter is a tortured veteran who shows many symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He is tortured by nightmares of his past and struggles to connect with his son, Albus (Sam Clemmett). Albus is, in many ways, the polar opposite to his father – whereas Harry saw Hogwarts as his escape, it is Albus’ prison. There are some stunning bits of dialogue between the two that deal with the weight of memory and inherited memory, how the effects of a traumatic event can sometimes spread down the family tree. These scenes are reminiscent of the graphic novel Mause – both showing a son living in a world shaped by the father’s harrowing experience.

Jamie Parker is certainly the stand-out in a role-for-role perfect cast. He is at times bumbling, brash, arrogant, tortured and funny; channelling what Rowling and Radcliffe made so memorable about Harry Potter while giving the character a sense of development from the young man who defeated Lord Voldemort. Noma Dumezweni is fantastic as Hermione Granger, who has become Minister of Magic and is everything you expect her to be. She’s powerful, she’s funny and she has one of the most tenderly beautiful scenes in the play (you’ll know it when you see it). Alex Price (Draco Malfoy) and Anthony Boyle (Scorpius Malfoy) are equal parts hilarious and heart-warming, fully bringing out a side of the Malfoy family that had only been touched upon before. Poppy Miller (Ginny Potter) and Paul Thornley (Ron Weasley) are somewhat pushed to the side amongst the epic plot of the story but do a good job by never sinking amongst its weight.

For the most part the dialogue is sparkling and powerful but there are a few moments of awkwardness. Sometimes important lines are lost under heaps of jokes, while Rowling’s reoccurring flaw of using her characters as opportunities to spout exposition about love and hope is at times seat-squirmingly awkward. Technically, the play is a master-piece with some genuinely jaw-dropping moments that look and feel like magic. Almost everything is polished to perfection, so that the play moves like clockwork. At times it moves into the indulgent and is almost detriment to the story but so strong are the plot and its characters that such risks are ultimately avoided.

The Cursed Child has at its core everything that my generation have come to love about the Harry Potter series. The sparkle of the early books mixes in beautifully with the darkness of the latter ones, all the while addressing the problems many super-fans have identified within the series as a whole. Ultimately, the play has many cursed children; Harry, who even as an adult must forever be the boy who lived; James, who must be his son; Scorpius, for the crimes his family committed before he was even born. We are all cursed in our own unique way, Rowling puts forward, but it is only by banding together that we can come to terms with our curses.