Analysing the play by J.K Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne
Where on earth do I start with this play? I love plays. I love Harry Potter. So you’d think that doing a play based on Harry Potter would make me one happy Hufflepuff, right?
Well, sort of. Let me put it this way: as a play, this production probably looks fantastic. I’ve only heard great things about the visual and practical effects and if I’m ever lucky enough to see it for myself, I’m sure I’ll walk out of the theatre with that confirmed. The story on the other hand…well…It’s not terrible, but it’s not exactly what I’d like to consider canon for the Wizarding World Universe either.
Up until a certain scene, I think the story was going in a pretty solid direction. There was a good mix of nostalgia for the fans and progression for the lives of the Golden Trio and their families. It begins where the epilogue in Deathly Hallows left off, the Trio in their late thirties getting ready to send Rose Weasley, James and Albus Potter off to Hogwarts. We’re following Albus around this time as he deals with the unwanted attention that automatically comes with being a Potter and the quickly budding friendship with Scorpius Malfoy. This is something the playwrights chose correctly straight off the bat. It would have been easy to continue to follow Harry around as he works as an Auror, but instead we get to see another young child having to deal with second-hand fame who, unlike Harry, really can’t live up to that expectation-or can he? Perhaps James can, but Albus seems to be a pretty haphazard wizard and has placed himself in a difficult situation by befriending Scorpius. Not to mention he was placed in Slytherin! Oh, the shock horror of it all!
There are three things in particular that I would like to discuss about what worked and what didn’t. Let’s start with what definitely worked-
Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy
These two outcasts are undoubtedly the heart of this production. From the get-go, they understand each other’s struggles and are determined to make things better for each other even if they can’t change the minds of others. Albus can see past the nasty rumours about Astoria and Voldemort. Scorpius can sympathise with the unwanted attention Albus receives. This type of friendship is one a lot of people can relate to. What I enjoy the most about it is that, for the most part it’s healthy. It’s not constantly perfect and has its ups and downs, even reaching a breaking point at the height of the story’s climax. They even help to finally unite their fathers in a thin-lined friendship- If that’s not a miracle, I don’t know what is! The boy’s bicker, argue, cry, laugh and rely on each other. Some fans have come to speculate that the boys are slowly developing a romantic relationship. I don’t think so. I have a similar relationship with one of my oldest friends, and while I would happily throw myself into an extremely dangerous time-bending extravaganza with her, I won’t be kissing her under the mistletoe this Christmas.
Harry and Albus Potter
Harry (finally losing his temper)
You know what? I’m done with being made responsible for your unhappiness. At least you’ve got a dad. Because I didn’t, okay?
And you think that was unlucky? I don’t.
You wish me dead?
No! I just wish you weren’t my dad.
Harry (seeing red)
Well, there are times I wish you weren’t my son.
ACT ONE, Scene VII
Look, I know that even the best of people have moments when they let nasty things slip before they can stop themselves, but this scene has always been a bone of contention for me. Clearly, father and son have been bottling all of this up for a very long time, so I can’t blame for the impending spat. However, what I can blame them for- Harry more than Albus- is the blatant lack of communication that could have saved them from so much anguish. Just how many times have we seen a lack of communication cause the trouble and conflict in a story? I get it-Albus is a teenager and most teenagers don’t like to open up to their parents for fear of seeming vulnerable. Honestly though, how hard could it have possibly been for Albus to take Harry aside and ask him to stop comparing Albus’ experiences with his own? Or perhaps ask him how he dealt with all the expectation that had sat on Harry’s shoulders during his time at Hogwarts? And as for Harry, how thick-headed does he have to be not to see that his middle-child hates the fame as much as he does? Harry hated being famous. Has he ever even attempted to connect with Albus on that level? Instead Harry continues to let the matter slide because he can’t seem to grasp that not every child can be as resilient as he was at that age.
I don’t understand your head, Albus-actually, you know what, you’re a teenager, I shouldn’t be able to understand your head, but I do understand your heart. I didn’t for a long time-but thanks to this-‘escapade’-I know what you got in there. Slytherin, Gryffindor, whatever label you’ve been given-I know-know-that heart is a good one-yeah, whether you like it or not, you are on your way to being some wizard.
ACT FOUR, Scene XV
Leaving Albus’ and Harry’s relationship open-ended, in the ‘work in progress’ category was a good decision. Not even a time-bending event could fix their problems in a heart-beat, but it did open the line of connection they really needed to make this work Harry finally realises that he needs to bond with Albus by simply being there, and not contributing to the insignificance Albus feels by constantly reminding him of what Harry achieved in his youth. In turn, Albus now knows that even though Harry is an adult, there is still a lot he is scared of and a lot that he needs to learn. Especially when it comes to being a father. They both know they will continue to have rough patches, but things will be better than before. Ironically, the best asset they have is Time. This in itself is the reason why I think it works perfectly well within the play, even if it wasn’t particularly pleasant to witness.
The Time Travelling Debacle and the Offspring of Nonsense
I promise I’ll keep this rant short. Here’s where all my enthusiasm disappeared when I first read the script. When I realised this was going to be a time-travelling story, everything else began to fall apart. I’ll keep it blunt: the script read like a well-written fanfiction piece. Delphi didn’t make it any more tolerable either. As someone who has read a ton of Potter Fanfiction, Bellatrix and Voldemort having a secret child together is as cliché as it gets. It kind of made it hard to empathise with Delphi’s story. Was it good to see characters who had died come back for a cameo? Sure, I guess, but it still felt like the script-writers were tugging directly on the nostalgia strings of the fans. Did we need to see Cedric again and relive the Triwizard Tournament? Did we need to see alternate timelines? Did we need to have Harry witness the sounds of his parent’s murder even though we already covered that in Deathly Hallows?
If there’s anything useful that came out of the time-travelling, it was having the friendship of Albus and Scorpius constantly tested and tried. Through the struggles provided by the alternate timelines, the boys proved that nothing can truly break them apart. I suppose that, if anything, makes the ridiculousness of the plot somewhat fade.
This whole setup could have gone in a completely different direction to where it ended up. The Wizarding World was pretty screwed up when the 7th book ended. There was Pureblood supremacy, blatant abuse of power and enough corruption in the Ministry of Magic to fill another seven books. In the 19 years since, people like Hermione have probably tried to change things for the better, but from the evidence provided it’s easy to decipher that witches and wizards are stubborn and stuck in their traditions. If any strides towards fairness and equality are to be made, then the best option is to start at the one place where many magical folk first make contact with the Wizarding World- Hogwarts.
Now what I’ve come to understand about Albus is that, despite allowing the resentment he feels towards the world influence his attitude, when he does open up enough to emote, there is a deepness there that even Harry couldn’t connect with. Albus believes that he hasn’t much intelligence, but just look at what he and Scorpius managed to do! Not only did they work their way through multiple challenges in order to go back in time, but Albus was able to figure out how to send a message to his father with quick thinking skills that would put his Aunt Hermione to shame. Albus is far smarter than he allows himself to believe. His intelligence along with Scorpius’ ability to read the emotions of others, and then to act accordingly could help them completely change the Wizarding World, starting with the school that resents them as much as they resent the school.
Call me crazy, but I would have loved to see Albus and Scorpius working together to turn Hogwarts on its head, rather than going on a Time Turner bender with the illegitimate daughter of Lord Smoldewart and Molly Weasley’s Bitch. Imagine the stir it would cause if two Slytherins decided to start breaking down the barriers that come with being sorted into different Houses. In recent years, I’ve started to question the functionality of the Hogwarts Houses. Why exactly is it a good idea to keep like-minded children in close quarters where stereotypes about the other Houses could fester without being challenged? Wouldn’t it be healthier to expose the kids to people of all personality traits over the duration of 24 hours a day? It’s no wonder Slytherin became so feared by the other Houses. Being cunning doesn’t automatically make you a Death Eater, but of course students from the other Houses would never get to learn that because being friends with a Slytherin is a huge faux pas! It’s so stupid! And because of that, the Slytherin kids can only associate with each other, which is unfortunate because being cut off from the other Houses has allowed some very nasty opinions to grow. As brilliant as the Hogwarts Founders were, keeping the students segregated into these groups even after Salazar left was one of the worst decisions they made.
Albus and Scorpius could change everything. On one side, you have the son of the Great Harry Potter, the symbol of the Light. On the other, there’s the youngest member of a family with a very dark background, who’s suspected of not even being a Malfoy, but the son of the symbol of Darkness. By working together, they could stump the logic of even the most traditionally-minded wizards. They could use their influence to create friendships based on kindness, not personal gain. They could teach others to look past the stigmas because they know what it can lead people to do. By the time they left Hogwarts, the boys could have created a whole new system of camaraderie and friendship based on who people are rather than what they are ‘supposed to be’.
This probably doesn’t sound as exciting as going back in time to save Cedric, then having to deal with the consequences, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t make a good play. I just think that watching the next generation clean up the mess of their predecessors is a little closer to home. You could still have exciting scenes that were catered for special effects. Imagine Albus being challenged by someone who opposes his strides towards change with a magic duel! We could even follow the boys into their adult lives and watch them take on the Ministry itself! What would Albus’ relationship with Harry be like in this instance? There are so many opportunities there that I can’t even mention them all without turning this thing into a thesis!
So in the end-
As I said in the beginning, I certainly don’t hate the play. For what it is, even if I think there were better options available, it’s still a very imaginative, strong storyline. You have to give J.K Rowling and the playwright’s credit for trying to give the long-time fans moments and scenes with characters that they had been wishing for or felt was missing. If you happen to enjoy time-travelling stories, this is a great example of how it can be done properly. Certainly don’t let my pitiful griping get in the way of your enjoyment.
After all, what exactly does a silly squib like me know, anyhow?