Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
1 September 2017updated 09 Sep 2021 6:00pm

19 years later: I’m still mad about the Cursed Child

Today marks the day when Albus Severus Potter first boarded the Hogwarts Express.

By Holly Hedharpy

The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years. All was well.

These are the cruellest last lines in the history of literature, because they are a lie. While all was indeed well when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was first published in 2007, it only took nine years for it to become spectacularly un-well again. Harry’s scar may not have hurt – but the hearts and minds of Potter fans everywhere trembled with pain upon the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child last year.

It goes without saying that HP&tCC is a good play (or rather, two good plays). They are big-budget technical masterpieces with top-rate actors and arresto momentum-ing visual effects. Theatrically, they are top notch. But HP&tCC is a bad Harry Potter play – and that is a crucial difference.

Today (1 September 2017) marks the exact date in the epilogue of Harry Potter that itself marks the start of HP&tCC. From now onwards, there is no going back from the canon (oh were it not so) hijinks of Albus Severus Potter, Scorpius Malfoy, and Voldemort’s child, Ebony Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way. Much has been made of how the fan fiction-esque plot destroyed an otherwise enjoyable piece of theatre, and little more needs to be said. I’m going to say it anyway.


Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.



Content from our partners
The shrinking road to net zero
The tree-planting misconception
Is your business ready for corporate climate reporting?

In fairness to Cursed Child, the plot does introduce some great new characters. Scorpius, Albus’s romantic partner (I-can’t-hear you-this-is-the-only-true-interpretation-of-the-play-please-do-not-test-me) is spectacularly funny and endearing. There’s another new guy, Severus Snape, who seems like a really kooky, gentle-hearted fellow – along with Albus Dumbledore, a never-before-seen infallible old wizard willing to open up his heart and sob in front of The Boy Who Lived. What’s that? These are age old Harry Potter characters? I think you will find they’re not.  

Leaving aside that Ronald Weasley appears to have been replaced by Roonil Wazlib (upon learning he has children in an alternate timeline, he exclaims “I expect their mother is hot”), by far the worst thing HP&tCC did was mess with time travel. In doing so, it messed with everything that came before. I am not especially mad at the new ways JK Rowling decided to move her story forward (it’s up to her to decide if Voldemort fucks, I guess) but she destroyed her own canon by going repeatedly back in time to pander to the audience’s nostalgia.

Every time I reread Goblet of Fire, I am supposed to imagine that Cedric Diggory met Albus Potter in a maze and was just like “huh cool” when the child-with-a-striking-resemblance-to-Harry-Potter announced “Your dad loves you very much”. In the end, after all this, am I not the cursed child?

It’s not just that time travel in the plot panders to the audience in a very sickly way (Snape was good! Dumbledore wuvs Harry!), it’s that it destroys the logic of time travel established in Prisoner of Azkaban. JK Rowling herself used to admit that she approached the subject of time travel “too light-heartedly” but imposed limits on herself to ensure this didn’t make her universe fall apart. Cursed Child undoes all of this. All the time turners are gone – except this one! Oh by the way, it’s MORE magic than previous time turners! That one’s disappeared? Don’t worry, here’s another! It’s even magical-er, too!

Craig Bowker Jr did not die for this.

At the end of the day, it is clear why JK Rowling agreed to co-create Harry’s “eighth story” – and allowed it to be branded as such. The two plays have raised a spectacular amount of money for Lumos, Rowling’s non-profit that helps orphaned children, and they’ve undoubtedly brought joy to hundreds (not a typo lol) of Harry Potter fans. I am not one of them. I am still mad.*

*I love you JK Rowling though please do not be mad at me, thank you.