It’s the only way I can preserve my opinion of her as a good writer, really. I know she outlined the thing, but there’s no way she gave it a once-over after the playwrites were done with it.
Considering how much I loved Harry Potter throughout my child- and teenhood, I suppose it’s somewhat surprising that I haven’t looked into Harry Potter and the Cursed Child until recently. I only had the vague ideas of “it’s a play,” and “Rowling didn’t actually write it herself.” At this point, I know that she provided an outline, which the playwrites used to write… this. I can only assume that the outline was very bare-bones, because the story of this play is utterly confused, and a lot of the plot points and reveals are bizarre in the extreme.
I think I’ll break down some of my issues with this into parts. Yes, this will contain spoilers.
How Many Plots Can You Have?
Go read a summary of this play, if you think you have the plot-discerning abilities. I’ll wait.
Right. You’re done? Okay, on a scale of one to ten, please rate how convoluted that plot was. Personally, I’ll give it about an eight. It’s not on the level of Lost, but it’s pretty bizarre.
This is quite inherent in time-travel plots, but it goes beyond that. We have, besides the time-travel, plots about school politics, family dynamics in the Potter household, family dynamics in the Malfoy household, Harry and Draco interacting as adults, a new Death Eater plot, and a completely unforeshadowed and canon-breaking character who I cannot imagine J.K. Rowling ever thinking was a good idea.
All these plots would be confusing enough in a novel, but in a play they are absolutely insane. Forget the whole “part one” and “part two” issue; I’m surprised there aren’t at least five “parts” to this thing!
Harry Potter + Play = Highly Impractical
Building off of the point above, I am utterly confused as to how you could go about portraying Harry Potter onstage. I’ve heard that the tickets to the original London show cost about £800, which, while exorbitant, isn’t exactly surprising, because the special effects budget for this play must be absolutely massive.
Sorting That Makes No Sense
Scorpius Malfoy should be a Ravenclaw. I know that a significant part of the plot is dismantling the house stereotypes, and that not everyone bookish goes into Ravenclaw (just look at Hermione Granger!), but I cannot see any traditionally-Slytherin traits in this kid. I can, however, see a metric shit-ton of Ravenclaw. Any character who says the line “my geekness is a-quivering,” as absolutely cringe-worthy as that line is, has no business being anywhere BUT Ravenclaw. Sure, he’s a Malfoy, but blood doesn’t have to dictate your house. Heck, just look where Albus ends up.
Not that that makes any more sense, though. Remember that epilogue in Deathly Hallows, where Albus was telling James “no, no, I won’t be in Slytherin”? That bit He sounded utterly horrified. Now, consider how much the Sorting Hat considered putting Harry in Slytherin. Harry said “not Slytherin, not Slytherin,” and the hat listened. It does take the student’s choice into account. So, with the idea of his family’s disapproval hanging over him, how the hell did Albus not end up requesting “not Slytherin,” and if he did, why would the Sorting Hat ignore him?
Heck, I’m Just Gonna Blockquote This…
“Albus Severus,” Harry said quietly, so that nobody but Ginny could hear, and she was tactful enough to pretend to be waving to Rose, who was now on the train, “you were named for two headmasters of Hogwarts. One of them was a Slytherin, and he was probably the bravest man I ever knew.”
“But just say —”
“— then Slytherin House will have gained an excellent student, won’t it? It doesn’t matter to us, Al. But if it matters to you, you’ll be able to choose Gryffindor over Slytherin. The Sorting Hat takes your choice into account.”
“It did for me,” said Harry.
*stares pointedly at Cursed Child*
The Dialogue Is So Bad
Remember that “my geekness is a-quivering” line I mentioned earlier? It’s not the worst line in the play. The dialogue here is clunky and bizarre, and I can only hope that the actors ad-lib a bit when they perform this.
What Have You Done To Hermione?
I’m actually fairly okay with Hermione in the main timeline. I’m not a huge fan of the Hermione/Ron ship, but I’m not a Harmonian either, so as long as it makes some sense, I don’t really have a vested interest in who she ends up with. I love the idea of her becoming Minister of Magic, because she absolutely could, and a damn good one at that.
One thing I am quite surprised by is the idea that she would have children before the age of thirty. I understand that wizards come of age at seventeen, but that’s only one year before the rest of us, and the average age at first birth is somewhere in the late twenties. I can’t really picture Hermione being an early mom, even if she is married to a Weasley. Still, that’s more of a quibble with the epilogue, and we’re not here to quibble with the epilogue, we’re here to quibble with Cursed Child.
In the first alternate timeline, Hermione goes from being Minister of Magic to being a grumpy, student-hating Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. I cannot picture this at all. I could picture Hermione becoming a professor, but there is absolutely no way that she would be that mean, and even less way that she would be teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts. That was her worst class, for fuck’s sake! It was the only O.W.L. on which she didn’t get an “Outstanding” grade. If Hermione became a professor, I would expect her to teach Charms or Arithmancy, which are her favorite subjects in the books, or perhaps Transfiguration.
What makes it worse, though, is that the reason given for this change of future is that she didn’t marry Ron and have Rose and Hugo. This is just utterly baffling to me, not to mention how ridiculously sexist it sounds. Hermione Granger is perfectly capable of pursuing her goals on her own. Furthermore, as you may have garnered from my above comments, I never got the impression that marriage and family were anywhere near her first priorities. This is absolutely out of character, and I cannot stand it.
This kind of thing makes me wonder whether the playwrites have actually read the Harry Potter books. It also is one of my reasons for believing that Rowling didn’t edit Cursed Child, because if she did, why the bloody hell would she leave THIS BULLSHIT in?
Speaking of Careers…
Harry being an Auror makes a bit more sense. However, I honestly would have liked to see him become a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Remember how awesome he was at teaching Dumbledore’s Army back in Order of the Phoenix? He’s clearly got a great deal of talent as an educator; it’s a pity to see that go to waste. Oh well, maybe he’ll go back to teaching once he’s got some Auror-ing under his belt.
Ron, though… I’m not sure exactly what they were doing with his career history. I suppose I can understand him going to work at Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes somewhat, but it still seems kind of odd to me.
Honestly, I think a Ronald Weasley career progression that would have made me happy would be if he overcame his stage fright/performance anxiety and went on to play Keeper for the Chudley Cannons, especially if his mad skills brought them their first win since 1892. Harry might have better prospects in professional Quidditch, considering how talented he was as a Seeker, but I honestly can’t see him going for that as a career choice. Ron, though… I could absolutely see it.
Literally Everything To Do With Delphi
Here it is, folks. The moment you’ve all probably been waiting for. The moment when I discuss the character who made thousands of fans slam the book shut with an enraged cry of “BULLSHIT” and proclaim Cursed Child to be nothing more than glorified fanfiction.
Delphi Diggory/The Augurey/Delphini Riddle is the daughter of Bellatrix Lestrange and Lord Voldemort. That already sounds like the description of a character from a fanfic. The livejournal community Pottersues lists a staggering 153 fics involving a Sue who is related to Voldemort, most of which are rated “Toxic” on the Sue-O-Meter. Further cementing Delphini’s Sue-ness is her unusual hair (silver and blue) and her apparent irresistibility to certain male characters. She pretty much comes off as a poorly-written Villain Sue that should be languishing unread in a fanfiction.net portfolio that hasn’t been opened since the writer was thirteen years old.
I honestly have no idea how this character ended up in canon. If Rowling thought her up, then what the bloody hell was she thinking? All evidence in the novels suggests that though Bellatrix is completely obsessed with Voldemort, the Dark Lord himself has no interest in sex or reproduction. That’s a good thing, too, because who the fuck wants to think about the words “sex” and “Voldemort” in the same sentence? I guess you might if you have a kink for noseless guys, or if you’re in a very specific niche of the “scaly” section of the furry fandom, but for most people, this is… NO. Just… NO.
I’m not saying that there is no circumstance in which this character might work, but all of them would involve radically changing her backstory. For instance, if she wasn’t actually Voldemort and Bellatrix’s daughter, but had been raised to think she was by Death Eaters in need of a figurehead, that would be absolutely fascinating. It wouldn’t break canon, and it would show off exactly how insane the Death Eaters who raised her were, that they took this kid and built her up as the heir to their leader’s legacy, making her think that all these horrible things that Voldemort did were good and that she should aspire to continue his work.
Likewise, if Bellatrix had actually had a child with her husband Rodolphus, but presented the child as Voldemort’s out of her twisted love for him, that could have been interesting as well. It would have shown how deep her insane obsession went.
Alternately, if you really wanted to stick with Voldemort and Bellatrix as her actual biological parents, why not have this be entirely Bellatrix’s idea? Since Voldemort is completely uninterested in things like children and *gag* sex, have Bellatrix impregnate herself via magic. It’d be bizarre and creepy, but since when is Bellatrix Lestrange anything other than bizarre and creepy? Plus, the magical nature of Delphi’s conception could then be used to explain her odd hair color. It would make far more sense! Heck, this one could even work with the plot of the play, where the clinching factor in establishing Delphini as Voldemort’s daughter is the fact that she speaks Parseltongue.
Moving on, we can also discuss the fact that Delphi’s bizarre backstory not only breaks canon in terms of warping characters OOC, but also in terms of raising a rather inconvenient question: when the fuck was Bellatrix pregnant?
Bellatrix Lestrange escaped from Azkaban in January of 1996, and died in the Battle of Hogwarts on May 2, 1998. The fanmade Harry Potter wiki further notes that Delphini was conceived after the battle of the Department of Mysteries, which occurred in mid-June of 1996. This gives us a window just shy of two years.
Now, we must factor in Bellatrix’s stated positions and in-text appearances. Her appearance with Narcissa early in Half-Blood Prince is irrelevant; it occurred in July of 1996, so if she was pregnant at the time, she certainly wouldn’t have been showing. Bellatrix apparently taught Draco Malfoy Occlumency for the rest of that summer, as evidenced by Snape and Malfoy’s conversation on Christmas. Bellatrix’s next appearance comes in Book 7, where she joins her master and fellow Death Eaters in attempting to attack Harry while he is moved out of the Dursleys’ house. She is not visibly pregnant during this battle. She does not appear again until the trio are brought to Malfoy Manor in March of 1988, at which point she is, again, not visibly pregnant.
Thus, we have something of a window: Bellatrix must have been pregnant at some point during Book 6, where we don’t see her. The problem with this is that she spends most of this time in Malfoy Manor, where Draco and Lucius would have noticed her becoming pregnant and giving birth. I would be willing to accept an explanation that has her magically hiding her pregnancy, but if that’s the case, I would really like to know about it. Yes, I do complain about writers leading their audiences by the nose, but there is a certain point of “you can infer it” that just gets really annoying, and “to patch a Fridge Logic hole” is right about it.
I could also touch on Bellatrix’s age (mid-to-late forties), but that seems unnecessary at this point. Plus, it’s entirely possible for a woman to not enter menopause until her fifties… even if she did spend a lot of time in Azkaban, where the terrible conditions could wreak havoc with one’s reproductive system.
Back to the other side of the family, I’m not sure why Voldemort would allow his child to exist, even if he did have any interest in creating one. Voldemort wants power and immortality. Having a person walking around who could reasonably claim to be his heir would thus be extremely counterproductive to everything he aspires to. If Voldemort was trying to rule the world with Delphini running around, he would constantly have to worry about her attempting to gain some of his power, or even usurp it if she got ambitious enough. From Voldemort’s sociopathic perspective, it would be far better to just kill her.
Finally, I want to take a moment to quibble with this character’s name. I suppose “Delphini” is fine; going with the Black family theme naming, it’s a shortening of the constellation Delphinius. However, her nickname of “Delphi” is utterly bizarre. I understand that there’s the connection with future-telling, which connects her to her alter ego of “the Augurey,” but the name “Delphi” actually comes from the ancient Greek word “δελφύς,” which means “womb.” It may only be a nickname, but having a female character whose name literally means “womb” makes me incredibly uncomfortable.
Remember that godawful Spider-Man musical? The one that gave several actors injuries and was pretty much a laughingstock of Broadway? This feels like the Harry Potter equivalent of that, although perhaps less of a disaster physically.
I don’t think I’ll ever see this play performed.