Warning: Spoilers ahead
"But, Ron in the Cursed Child has been reduced to a buffoon!"
This was only one of the more heated statements that were exchanged in a conversation I had with a friend the other day over JK Rowling's new play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (which, said friend was quick to remind me, was not written by Rowling herself. "This is not the eighth book; fanfic writers can write a better character graph," she said).
"He is married to the Minister for Magic. Cracking jokes, making light of things, taking care of the kids while his wife works is not buffoonery. It's all about balance," I said, but she was quick to point out a very crucial issue.
"Ron was crucial, not because Hermoine fell in love with him. He was crucial in his averageness. He was crucial in what he was to Harry."
This made me shut up for a while, because I agreed. One of the most beautiful things about JK Rowling's Harry Potter universe was its plurality of perspective. It has a message for everyone; presents every character's story to you. Everyone has their favourite. Ron is mine, Dobby or Fred Weasley could be yours. The seven books that she wrote, and the seven movies that followed, was a cocoon of a universe that inter-mingled around one another.
We could always jump from watching The Half-Blood Prince to referencing to a excerpt in The Prisoner of Azkaban. We had our own version of Hermoine in our head, and accepted Emma Watson as an interpretation of it. But we took both the literary and the cinematic journeys together. JK Rowling helped us expand our hearts.
The Cursed Child, however, begins 22 years after the Battle of Hogwarts. And, so, the most crucial thing about reading Harry Potter and The Cursed Child is understanding that this is a separate universe.
This is a play, based on a story that JK Rowling envisioned. It may or may not be canon for you (even thought she admits it is), and that choice is left to you. But without this understanding, you'll be left in a grey limbo with a nostalgic 7-part past and the child-like inability to let go of it, therefore not being able to grasp a new re-telling of a story of familiar characters.
Once you're with the programme though, Harry Potter and The Cursed Child is magical, has the JK Rowling soul but packaged in a new box, and it reinforces an age old adage: things change, people change, but your soul remains the same.
(Reiterating, spoilers ahead. Maybe don't even read ahead if you haven't read the play)
The one theme that stands out in The Cursed Child in Voldemort's daughter Delphi and most people I have spoken to have multiple grouses with this concept. The one that I agree with the most is how it's unfair that this universe didn't get its own version of dark. The play still relies on Voldermort to revisit the good-bad axis, and Delphi being the daughter becomes a continuation of it.
But what is unsettling is so many readers seem fixated on how Voldemort has sex with Bellatrix for Delphi to be born. There's even a really funny reddit thread on how Harry felt the passive orgasm back in book six when these two did it, and I just want to laugh at the thought of that.
It's the world of magic, one can create a progeny without sharing a bed. #justsaying
This part, however, didn't infuriate me as much as people outraging about Ron and Padma's child being named Panju. There is a case to be made about cultural appropriation, sure, and we can have that conversation in just a bit, but it only takes a little of an open mind to understand that this universe is the worst case scenario.
Jack Thorne explains it beautifully in his playwright. Hermoine never went out with Victor Krum in The Goblet of Fire because of the sequences of event that followed a time travel, and as a result there was no spark (of jealously) between Ron and her. The gravity of the situation of Ron marrying Padma, and naming their kid something as ludicrous as Panju, is the manifestation of the worst case scenario. It's supposed to be cheeky. Have we forgotten the sense of humour in the Harry Potter written universe?
Come on, give JK Rowling some credit.
The Cursed Child is not just an accidental story that struck her in the shower. This has been given serious consideration. If she had written Cursed Child with no heart and only to cash in on craze, she would have corrected all tragedies. This is a play, not a novel. The structure demands that you don't expect explanations, you just ride along. It was meant to be visual, remember?
Ultimately, it boils down to multiple questions: 22 years later, how would you capture a world that was disclosed in seven novels, into one play, and take off on it? Do you keep tangents? Do you mess with them, or play around with them? Do you break your own rules, or do you strictly recreate, and succumb to formulas? Do you create new characters with similar graphs? (Albus and Harry's relationship is very emblematic of Harry's inner turmoil as a child. They both grow together, the Child gives birth to the Father, too).
The Cursed Child may not have all the answers; it certainly is not the same as the books, and it's futile to find parts that are, but it attempts to recreate a universe in a different way. It takes you back to the person you were when you read all the books, all those years. The person who stood in line outside book stores and read the book in the car ride back home regardless of who thought what. It sinks you into its world, even if you're hating it.
You're open to liking and/or disliking the play (I had many issues with the plot holes, you can read about them further in Zenia D'Cunha's piece on The Cursed Child), but I certainly see Rowling's soul in it. I can see the events of The Cursed Child unfolding 19 years after Deathly Hallows.
It's impossible to set a play like this, whose very premise is to potentially mess with the past, but still be stuck to it by the hip, without having soul. You have to be invested in your story to completely re haul it. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child graphs change and growth beautifully well. Change in characters, growth in the reader; and it all leads to one place: an open heart, but a familiar soul.