Harry Potter And The Media Convergence Phenomenon [Spoiler-Free Review: Cursed Child]

This is a review of the script of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, read as a novel. I haven't got tickets to see it on stage and I'd have to kill far too many people to even get to stand outside the theatre. I was going to use my Cloak of Invisibility to get in, but I've put it down somewhere...

This is also a SPOILER-FREE review. This means I'm not going to make the mistake of telling you what happens to Dobby this time.

So first of all, Cursed Child is a perfectly enjoyable read. It's accessible as a play script, in fact after the first few pages you can easily forget and think of it as a story written in idiosyncratic style. To be fair it's more of a novella than a novel, but will still keep you occupied for the duration of a short internal flight. Using some clever plot devices, the plot involves both familiar and new characters, there's a lot of fun, some surprises and, happily, some new discoveries about the characters and the Potterverse. The story arc is satisfying, the ending is a little less so.

Cursed Child also manages to retain that essential J.K. Rowlinguality, even though Rowling only co-wrote the story and did not write the script. Characters are sympathetic, do have more than one aspect to their personality, and do develop during the events of the play. Dialogue is two thirds genius to one third cornfield. I do miss the internal voices that run through all Rowling's actual novels - only used here in very limited ways.

CC does however suffer from being a play script, and in particular a play script that wants to be something else. It's a Media Identity Disorder if you like. CC owes its inspiration not so much to the original Harry Potter novels but to the films. It makes sense that the writers would know that their play will be compared to the films, or perhaps they have ambitions towards a film conversion. It's also true that media are converging - films, TV shows, plays, books, audiobooks, comics, games etc. are all becoming more or less the same thing, and in a world where you can buy Harry Potter wool, a play script that wants to be a film script, looks like a novel and reads like a short story isn't so far fetched.

Either way, CC features ultra-short scenes, with major location changes every few minutes, much action, and many magical effects. None of this needs to make it a bad play, but I suspect it may lose some of the intimacy that comes from the best-written theatrical plays. I would still be curious to see it, if I can find where I put my Cloak, and I'm willing to be proven wrong.


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