Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Is the Shorter, One-Part Game Better?

lLet’s face it, if you’re up for a nearly four-hour play about a middle-aged Harry Potter learning to be a good father, you’re probably fine with a nearly six-hour version. But Harry Potter and the Cursed Childthe theatrical sequel to Rowling’s books, has now been honed from a two-part play to a single show of three and a half hours with an intermission.

The new version – opened in Melbourne last week, replacing the two-part version that started in Australia in 2019 – not only will it help bring in more audiences, but will likely appeal to those with small children, smaller budgets (a ticket now costs between $60 and $60 USD). 220, which is what you paid for each part), or people traveling to see it in the few theaters that stage it around the world. The one-parter also recently launched in San Francisco and on Broadway in New York, and will open soon in Toronto and Tokyo; the longer version will remain in London and Hamburg for the time being.

So what’s the short review of this shorter piece? The Cursed Child still feels like Rowling based it on a cheese dream, but the plot remains intact, albeit a little too hectic.

Without revealing anything for those who haven’t seen either version, we follow Harry Potter’s teenage son Albus as he starts at Hogwarts, where he tries to escape the shadow of his famous father, now an overworked and overbearing adult. Albus and his BFF Scorpius Malfoy – the son of his father’s childhood enemy Draco – decide to travel back in time to change a crucial detail in Harry’s past in order to improve the future.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Princess Theater in Melbourne.
“No matter how many times you see this piece, it’s hard to resist the joys of all the fiery explosions and optical illusions.” Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Princess Theater in Melbourne. Photo: Michelle Grace Hunder

So far, so plot. But with the new cuts, The Cursed Child is now even plottier, and there’s still a lot to steam through. The exposition is rushed as if we were at the races, lighter fluid can splash across the stage as the actors spin, and scenes change at breakneck speed. (I sympathized with many of the actors literally sprinting on and off stage towards the end.) Somehow there are more magic tricks out there: No matter how many times you see this play, it’s hard to miss everyone’s delights. to withstand the fiery explosions and optical illusions.

But gone is much of the background richness that, while not essential to the story, gave a better idea of ​​Rowling’s world coming of age. It was interesting to see more of her boy hero as a grown man, trying to give his children a healthy childhood while taking into account his undeniable traumatic nature.

Some characters disappear completely and go unnoticed; others are so reduced that you wonder why they were included at all. (Albus’ older brother James is now forgettable; their sister Lily is completely gone.) A main character, who is secretly a villain and was featured in much of the original show, is now barely on stage, leaving their big reveal a feeling of a little wet.

And yet, between all the cuts, one scene has been added strikingly: In the second half, Albus takes Harry aside to inform his father that he will have to accept Scorpius as “the most important person in my life,” a statement made with weighted urgency and one that his father kindly accepts. The original show was criticized for “queer baiting” Albus and Scorpius, but director John Tiffany – who is gay – said it then “should not [have] been appropriate” to clarify the nature of their relationship.

Six years later, it’s clear that someone thought it was now appropriate. The sub has disappeared from the subtext; Scorpius’ female love interest in the original is now a platonic friend. Whether giving Harry a son has anything to do with Rowling’s now public views on transgender people, aired since the play debuted six years ago, is unknown and will likely never be confirmed by anyone. Some wouldn’t even see the change. What’s indisputable is that someone thought the change was important.

Crucially, the abbreviated Cursed Child isn’t better because it’s shorter. You’ll still cheer for all the wonderful magic, but this distilled version confirms just how much this piece has always functioned as a greatest hits tour of all things Potter: there are time turners, dementors, the invisibility cloak, trips to the Forbidden Forest , magical duels and numerous surprising reunions with dead characters. If you’ve been able to see the longer version, 10 points to you – but unless you’re a big fan there’s little reason to spend any more hours on it.

  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child can be seen at the Princess Theater in Melbourne; tickets are on sale until October 2022. It is also in London, New York, San Francisco, Hamburg and will open soon in Toronto and Tokyo

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