Study Guide

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

By Jack Thorne, based on a story by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Introduction

The Play's The Thing

There are more types of plays than there are types of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans. We've seen Shakespearean theater with sword fights and gender-bending. We've seen depressing plays about death, sales, and death of salesmen. We've seen musicals based on movies and musicals that got turned into movies.

But we've never seen anything like Harry Potter and the Cursed Childand not just because we'll be waiting half a decade to get tickets to the show.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the canonical eighth story in the Harry Potter universe. Beginning eighteen years after the conclusion of the final novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Cursed Child shows us how Harry is adapting to his greatest challenge, a struggle more difficult than vanquishing the most evil wizard in the world: parenthood.

Based on a story by J.K. Rowling, playwright Jack Thorne wrote a sprawling, epic, two-part, four-act play about Harry's relationship to his middle child, Albus Severus Potter. This is way different from any of the other Potter tales. Sure, we see Ron and Hermione again. Yeah, there's magic and mayhem.

But here wizarding takes a backseat to…parenthood.

Aging Like A Fine Wine

Initially directed by John Tiffany, who's directed Once and The Glass Menagerie, the play features a new cast of actors playing beloved characters. Jamie Parker plays Harry. Noma Dumezweni plays Hermione. And Paul Thornley plays Ron. The different faces emphasize that this isn't your father's Harry Potter—and yes, they're one more reminder that Harry Potter is old enough to be a dad.

Knowing that all of Harry's approximately 1.4 billion fans don't have the opportunity to travel to London for the stage production, Rowling published the Special Rehearsal Edition Script, spawning midnight release parties the likes of which we hadn't seen since 2007. (Source)

And, although some fans didn't realize that the eighth book is, in fact, a script (whoops—always read that fine print) the play itself was well reviewed. (Source) The Telegraph called it a "magical show" and the Guardian said it was "spellbinding." American newspapers better go ahead and reserve their best magic-related puns for when the play inevitably comes to Broadway. (Source)

Until then, fans hope to be one of the lucky forty to get tickets to the play in a weekly lottery. We imagine it's only a matter of time until we read about a wand duel to the death for scalped tickets.

If you can't wait, then grab a copy of the Cursed Child script and put on a production in your backyard. Or wait—on second thought, don't do this. Per the bold print on the copyright page: "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two may not be performed in whole or in part and no use may be made of it whatsoever except under express license from the rights holders of the work, J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter Theatrical Productions Limited."

You'll have to use your own magic to bring it to life: your imagination.

What is Harry Potter and the Cursed Child About and Why Should I Care?

You already care about the script for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child…for a couple of reasons.

  1.  It's Harry Potter. (!!!)
  2. You're #24,223,124 on the list for tickets to see the play in London so you might as well read it during the five years you're waiting for a seat.
  3. It's Harry Potter, guys.

But beyond those—you know, the things that convinced us to finally get that lightning-bolt shaped tattoo and plan to move to London—there are some real-deal cultural and literary reasons to care.

The Cursed Child isn't like any other Harry Potter story. This isn't an eighth book, and it isn't even written by J.K. Rowling. It's written by a fan: playwright Jack Thorne. (Although the play has Rowling's final approval.) As a result, a bunch of critics accused the play of being fanfic. (Source)

But don't let those naysayers sway you.

And don't let nostalgia sway you, either…although the play lets you revisit some dearly departed friends. The list of cameos is long, from Albus Dumbledore (in portrait form) to Viktor Krum, and almost everyone in between.

Actually, the play serves as a critique of the dark side of nostalgia: being stuck in the past, and unable to move on. The play does this by working with common fanfic tropes in unusual ways. It takes one fan favorite character—Cedric Diggory—and smears his reputation in the mud. It takes another—Neville Longbottom—and teases an appearance that never happens. It features a clear message that changing the past is a Very Bad Idea. It features zero cheesy romance.

And most importantly, it doesn't seek to rewrite any of the relationships J.K. Rowling created. The play respects her world, and tries to follow her characters along a logical path from teenager to (yikes) middle-aged adult.

Brutal moment of truth here—fanfic often gets lost in the nostalgia and fails to examine what makes the original works great in the first place. But this play is both nostalgic and progressive, and it moves Harry's legacy forward.

Sure, Harry might be facing a midlife crisiswhat's the wizard equivalent of buying a red Porsche?—but Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is looking forward to a new Potterverse with the enthusiasm of a young witch going to Hogsmeade for the first time.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Resources

Websites

Not Playing Around
You'd need an act of magic to get tickets to the blockbuster production, which might be sold out until you turn forty. No scalping spells, please.

More, Potter
Pottermore is, of course, your source for all things Potter, even Potter on stage.

Articles and Interviews

Making the Magic
The cast and crew decide not to #keepthesecrets about the making of the play.

The Girl with the Snitch Tattoo
Fans analyzing the cover say it is Delphi's Augurey tattoo with Albus trapped inside. But why is the tat an evil Snitch?

Video

Prof. Gompertz's Class
BBC reporter Will Gompertz, who should be a Harry Potter character, talks to Jo and the playwrights about their creative process

Curse You!
If you're cursing JK Rowling because you don't know whether to say "curst" or "curs-ed," this video is for you.

JK Rowling and the Playwright (and the Director) Part I
They take this two-part thing so seriously, even their interview is in two parts.

Audio

Secret is Out
The best way to get people on the radio talking about your play is to tell them to keep it a secret.

Party All Night
A new Harry Potter book is basically a spell that says, "Accio, fans!" at midnight.

Images

Blondes Have More Fun
Draco and Scorpius must use Sun-In & hair bleaching magic.

Gang's All Here
Here is the cast after Daniel Radcliffe et al have Polyjuiced into new people.