Magic or tragic?

Vicky Al­lan finds out if the new Harry Pot­ter story has made the jump from stage to page

The Herald - Arts - - BOOKS - Harry Pot­ter And The Cursed Child: Parts One And Two, Lit­tle, Brown, £15.99

the ir­re­sistible, kindly outsider-geek Scor­pius Mal­foy, shunned son of Draco Mal­foy, and Al­bus Pot­ter, a self-ab­sorbed teenager strug­gling with the trou­bles of be­ing the “dis­ap­point­ing” child of celebrity Harry Pot­ter. The ap­peal is also still in Harry him­self, 19 years on, work­ing in the Min­istry of Magic, drown­ing un­der pa­per­work, un­able to con­nect with Al­bus, or ap­pre­ci­ate who he re­ally is, even declar­ing, “Well, there are times I wish you weren’t my son.”

There are sev­eral com­mon crit­i­cisms from fans. One, with­out giv­ing any spoil­ers, is that one new char­ac­ter could not be some­one else’s daugh­ter. The other is that they feel Harry Pot­ter could not pos­si­bly have been such a ter­ri­ble fa­ther. But it’s this lat­ter strand of the story that rings strik­ingly true, and which gives it depth and res­o­nance. What kind of fa­ther, af­ter all, is likely to de­velop out of a boy who loses his par­ents as a baby, is brought up by cruel rel­a­tives, then fur­ther raised in a board­ing school, and ul­ti­mately has a long trau­matic saga of fight­ing a ter­ri­fy­ingly dark foe? And what else has the saga been about all along, other than the fail­ure of adults, some­times ac­ci­den­tal, in their care and men­tor­ing of the young?

To the Mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion of fans who grew up with Pot­ter but are not yet par­ents them­selves, this evo­lu­tion of their hero may be a tough sell. Ar­guably, though, it rein­vents the world of Pot­ter for the cur­rent co­hort of par­ents who may be con­sid­er­ing tak­ing their chil­dren to the the­atre to see the show.

That said, as a read­ing ex­pe­ri­ence the plays do flag, fre­quently ap­pear­ing to be­long more on the stage than the page. And there is also some­thing I can re­late to in the dis­ap­point­ment felt by fans: The Cursed Child has the smart­ness, slick­ness and multi-au­di­ence rel­e­vance of a Hol­ly­wood screen­play. It smacks of a col­lab­o­ra­tive work done by pro­fes­sion­als – writer Jack Thorne (Let The Right One In) and di­rec­tor John Tif­fany (Black Watch) know how to de­liver a great show. But one of the ap­peals of Rowl­ing was that her in­cred­i­ble in­ven­tive­ness was chan­nelled into some­thing that ap­peared at times a lit­tle clunky and am­a­teur­ish. It was, at times, raw and sprawl­ing, al­most like a di­rect chan­nel into some­one’s imag­i­na­tion rather than a cul­tural prod­uct. The books ap­peared al­most a re­vealed world, con­jured by a sin­gle mum in a cafe, rather than a pro­fes­sional cre­ation.

A show is a show. A film is a film. A book is a book. Each art form de­liv­ers dif­fer­ently. We knew that al­ready. And we also knew that crit­ics have loved this the­atre show so the play is not the prob­lem. It is in­deed an im­pres­sive cul­tural prod­uct. That dis­ap­point­ment has been felt by fans is a tes­ta­ment to two things: the in­tense de­sire for an eighth novel, and a feel­ing of be­trayal: that this book has in some way been over­sold.

Harry Pot­ter is a fa­ther in The Cursed Child, and not a very good one. While that makes for a fas­ci­nat­ing read for par­ents some of the Mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion of fans may find this evo­lu­tion of their hero a tough sell

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