How to Enjoy Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

It has been nine years since J.K. Rowling released the capstone to her incredibly successful Harry Potter series. Now we finally have the eighth story in the series. At least that's how Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has been advertised. I feel that this marketing strategy will end up doing the story a great disservice, because it will undoubtedly create impossible expectations in fans of the books.

The problem arises with the fact that The Cursed Child and the rest of the Harry Potter series are different formats. Whereas the original seven books featured a limited omniscient third-person narrator which allowed the reader constant access to Harry Potter's thoughts and feelings, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a script, and a script serves only to describe basic action and dialogue. While action sequences like the lightsaber duel in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace may take up four minutes screen time, the action described in the script  are only two or three very brief paragraphs.

Plays and movies are visual mediums, meaning character development must be shown not described. This is why directors get all of the praise they do. It's their job to glean a character's motivations and inner-thoughts from dialogue and lines of action in a script, and then stage/film characters in a way that communicates in a matter of seconds what would take paragraphs of description in a book.

This means much of what's written in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is open to the reader's interpretation. In short the reader is the director. The reader can be  even more engaged with a script than a book. It's up to you, the reader to imagine what is going on in the heads of characters. The action is broadly described, but you get to imagine the specifics of how a scene plays out. In a way, it's as if you get to work with with Jack Thorne and J.K. Rowling to create the story.

This means the play is nowhere near as rich in detail as the books. For some this will be entirely disorienting and will at first seem to be a negative attribute of the story itself. I recommend looking at the story as a movie. Take a pause at the end of every scene to truly create the imagery briefly described in the script in your mind. Fill in the blanks. Take ownership over the story--after all you are the director of the play unfolding in your imagination.

Those who do this will discover a powerful story about letting go of the past, understanding how our choices can have wide-reaching consequences. You will discover two fathers who must learn to love and accept two sons that are very different from them. You will discover characters who hurt each other deeply, in a way only those we love most can, and then forgive each other. 

Harry and Albus Potter from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

 I enjoyed Harry Potter and the Cursed Child immensely. The story itself is good, though not as detailed or intricate as the original seven stories, but it's the human, utterly flawed characters that truly shine through in the story. I cannot recommend the script enough. Though the story is short on details, it allows the reader to take ownership over the characters and story in a way they never could watching a film or reading a book. It's the best gift J.K. Rowling could have given to her fans. 


J. Leonard has been writing since 1994 when he wrote his first piece on what he wanted to be when he grew up in Mrs. Wagstaff's Kindergarten class. His writing has improved marginally since that time.