Back in June, I had the pleasure of attending the second preview of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the hotly anticipated eighth Harry Potter story by J. K. Rowling. At the time of writing, details of the story remain mostly under wraps, only known by those involved in the production and the lucky few thousand people who managed to acquire tickets to the previews. Free badges were even handed out at the end, emblazoned with #KeepTheSecrets as a final reminder for guests not to ruin the surprises of the show.
However, given that I had the unique opportunity to see the show so early in the run, I wanted to review it for The Orbital, but in a spoiler free manner to respect Rowling’s wishes. It was actually a very hard review to write because the play was so good and it is tempting to write praise of each scene in detail, but with time and care I got the review written and published on the website.
Now that the book of the script has been released, it’s a lot easier to talk about the plot of Cursed Child, and similarly with Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them (a film I still have not seen so no spoilers please!). However, the release of these script books brings up another issue – is the experience really the same between book and play/film? With the original Harry Potter series, the books came first, meaning that they should be read first in my opinion – I’d far rather imagine a world for myself before seeing someone else’s depiction on screen because if you know what it looks like before you lose some of the joy of reading. However, Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts were both written to complement the play and film respectively, and the former certainly cannot recreate what actually goes on within the theatrical experience.
Of course, tickets to the Cursed Child are few and far between, meaning that the book provides a way of hearing the story when there’s no way of seeing it on stage. But your imagination will always create an altered scenario to how a play or film shows events. For instance, my script was performed at the Unscene Festival last Monday: the director, Ellie Cozens, and cast staged it far better than I had imagined, with symbolism alongside the reality, but it did not look as I had initially envisaged. The impatience to devour Rowling’s work could be, in a way, robbing the spectator of their ability to see the story with fresh eyes, having already read the full text.
This is a dilemma too large and too petty to have been fully explored here – it’s a matter of personal opinion and if knowing the full details of Harry and Newt’s stories through page is what you want, then that’s fine. But I continue to maintain my stance that the stories are best explored in their original form, whether that be on screen or on the printed page.