Harry Potter and the Inevitable Entropy of Middle Age

I finished reading The Cursed Child a couple of weeks ago. It’s a curious text. I couldn’t help thinking “who is this for?”, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, I would characterise the overall mood as one of regret. The first scene opens in the same place that Deathly Hallows finishes, on Platform 9 3/4 of Kings Cross station. Harry and Ginny are waving their older children off on the train to Hogwarts. Their second son, Albus, expresses concern about which house he will be sorted into. Inevitably he is sorted into Slytherin, where he makes friends with Draco Malfoy’s son, Scorpius. As the boys grow up, Albus and Harry’s relationship becomes strained, and we see that Harry still has a hot temper and a tendency to say the wrong thing when angry. As a result the audience/ readers get the opportunity to be in Harry’s place as a middle aged man, exploring different scenarios had things gone differently in the Tri-Wizard Tournament.

Secondly, the parent-child relationship is explored from the perspective of a middle aged father. This is an odd viewpoint for a text that centres around a character from a series of books (and films) aimed at, roughly, 8-13 year old readers. While the books are narrated by a third person, they are, as Hannah and Marcelle from Witch Please podcast point out, told through Harry’s perspective. The narrator is not neutral. While The Cursed Child Albus is a key focal point character, he doesn’t share star billing with his father.

Finally, this text is a play-script, not the novelisation of a play. It is from a story idea by J. K. Rowling, but the playwrights are Jack Thorne and John Tiffany. And I feel that this is the most curious thing of all. 

So who is this text, a regretful look back by a middle aged father on decisions he made in his adolescence, for? Well, the fans. So it’s the dramatisation of a story for 30-somethings who were children when they first encountered Harry. And that in itself is curious. 

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