The Cursed Child is a two-part stage play set in the wizarding world of Harry Potter, written and released after the primary sequence of books and films had concluded. It opened in London’s West End in July 2016 and on Broadway in April 2018. Its continued success before and after the pandemic has it scheduled to have launched in seven cities across six countries by mid-2022.
In the summer of 2021, it was announced that the Broadway, Toronto, and San Francisco productions would be restaged as a single play, due to open in 2022. However, the original production comprised four acts split over two distinct plays, running over five hours in total.
The Cursed Child takes place 19 years after the final book of the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The play features several familiar characters. Harry Potter is there, of course, now Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement at the Ministry of Magic. He’s joined by his wife Ginny Potter and Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, and Draco Malfoy. The main story opens with the closing scene of the final book, as Harry and Ginny’s son Albus Severus Potter is about to travel to join Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Beyond that, the play’s events are shrouded in secrecy, with the slogan #KeepTheSecrets printed on the tickets to encourage fans to keep the twists and turns under a cloak of invisibility.
Can you only experience The Cursed Child on stage?
Although intended to be seen on stage, scripts of both plays, comprising the entire story, were released in print and digital formats in the same year the play opened. The Special Rehearsal Edition’s release proved that demand for Harry Potter stories continued nine years after the last book. It was the most pre-ordered book in the UK and US since The Deathly Hallows and topped pre-order lists for 2016.
Why is this Harry Potter play controversial?
The Cursed Child was well received by critics and broke award records in the UK and US. It was the first play to be nominated for eleven Laurence Olivier Awards, winning a record-breaking nine at the 2017 ceremony. It went on to win six awards, including Best Play at the 2018 Tony Awards.
But the reception within the large and vocal Harry Potter fan community was more mixed.
Unlike the books, the play is very much a collaborative effort. J.K. Rowling announced the play in late 2013, confirming the involvement of theatre producers Sonia Friedman and Colin Callender. At the time, the writer suggested the play would be a prequel rather than a sequel to the hugely successful book series that had finished six years before. The following year she assembled a creative team, including Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, with whom she developed the story. Thorne then wrote the script while Tiffany directed the original production.
This collaboration marked The Cursed Child out in the Harry Potter canon. It also introduced a new medium to the franchise, which Rowling insisted was the perfect choice for the story. Despite picking up from The Deathly Hallows, the significant time jump was distinct from the books that had always progressed year by year. While some fans complimented the dialogue between familiar characters, others pointed out that the story contradicted rules that books had established, particularly involving the use of time-turners, which first appeared in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Fans also criticized some of the characterization and story and plot points recycled from Harry’s earlier adventures. The fact that the script was penned by Jack Thorne and not J.K. Rowling was proof to some that The Cursed Child was glorified fan fiction. Parts of the Harry Potter fandom continue to be very vocal in their opposition to the play, with some unofficial websites making sure it is separate from the books if it is mentioned at all.
Is Harry Potter and the Cursed Child canon?
Despite its controversial status among a sizable number of fans, the play is marketed as the eighth story in the Harry Potter series. Before the play’s premiere, JK Rowling confirmed on Twitter that the play was canon, despite its authorship.
In the face of ongoing criticism, the play’s canonical status was further confirmed when the official website Pottermore added The Cursed Child to the Harry Potter chronology in 2018. After that site’s transfiguration into Wizardingworld.com a year later, it continued to publish regular content on the Cursed Child. However, the play continues to receive a mixed reception from fans five years after its premiere.