With all due respect to the wishes of Rowling, it is impossible to discuss this book without spoilers. I will try to keep them to a minimum, but a good reader will be able to figure out the spoilers in the play anyway. (Honesty, the villain might as well have a sign that says villain). I am also well aware that this is a play. It is a different format. Yet, I am use to reading plays and know to take that into account. I do think it would be awesome to see this on stage simply to see how the effects were done. Finally, I gave Deathly Hollows two stars, and I did not grow up with Harry Potter. Oh, and while I did pre-order this, it was a last minute decision as I really wanted Byatt’s new book and needed another book for free shipping. So there you go.
More than one review has called this play fan fiction and that is a fair assessment. There are far too many scenes that are simply a fan fiction writer’s wet dream. If Mary Sue is a term for a character, what is the term for a scene whose only purpose is fan dream come true and is full of characters acting out of character? Whatever it is, there are way too many of those scenes.
If you don’t already know, the play chronicles the adventures of Potter’s middle child, Albus, (a plus for not having it be the youngest, though Albus is the youngest son) at Hogwarts. He gets sorted into the wrong house (not really) and his bestie is Scorpious, who despite his name is the best thing about this overhyped work of fan fiction.
Seriously, I need a bus.
There is so much wrong with this. It’s true that it is a play, and whereas the friendship between Harry, Ron, and Hermione had a whole book to develop its base, the play can’t give its characters that space. Yet, I found myself wishing that there wasn’t such a big time leap. At least four scenes could have been done away with and, instead, more time devoted to the development of the friendship between Albus and Scorpius. The friendship is vitally important to the plot. Additionally, Rose and Albus start as friends and then are suddenly not. Why? Simply because Rose didn’t want to sit with Scorpius? Also Rose, for no apparent reason, tells Albus important information, why if they are not close? If it is simply because of Albus’ connection to Potter, then what does that say about Rose?
The plot and Albus are two huge problems with the play. In terms of the plot, it is full of holes and problems. Part of this is because of the time travel aspect. Honesty, can we stop with the Time Travel? Unless a writer really thinks though it leaves plot hole that you could fly a dragon though. (The plot itself really doesn't make that much sense).Just stop. Additionally, there is an important plot reveal that makes no sense because, quite frankly, if that had happened there would have been certain details in Deathly Hollows. Not to mention, it further demonizes a character (who really didn’t need it) to making one more human (whose greatest characterization was the opposite). Retro-cons piss me off, they really do. And why, when they are used do they always make the women worse? Seriously Dragonlance did this, and it made me furious. Now here too.
Ginny, too is underserved by the play. In fact, she is simply the supportive wife. There is one brilliant scene with her, Draco, and Harry. It is brilliant, yet in it she has more chemistry with Draco than with Harry, who has more chemistry in the play with Hermione. Undoubtedly good acting could correct this, but still. Additionally, Harry, Hermione, and Ron all act like they are still twelve. Which is surprising because Hermione never really acted that way. The only one who seems to have grown up is Draco. In fact, let’s just call this paper Malfoys rule. And the ending with the punishment? It doesn’t really make the good guys look good. It is too simplistic.
Anyhow. Albus is also a problem. It’s true being a child of a famous hero has to be difficult and awful. But because of pacing there is no sense to feel sympathy for Albus. He comes across as whinny and spoiled. Instead of scenes that weren’t really need, a more detailed character development would have been nice. For instance, Albus complains about being a spare. Yet, James, the eldest Potter son, does not have a scene alone with his father. Quite frankly, taking the play and Deathly Hollows into account, Harry spends more time with Albus than with James. If anything, James is the spare who no one cares about. The reason for his behavior seems to be that he is not good at magic, but neither, quite frankly, was Harry. Furthermore, when Albus realizes that a time turner still exists, he does not even once consider using it to help Scorpius who is grieving for his mother. Nope, it’s to help an old coot with a hot niece. What does that say about Albus? To be fair, Albus’ attachment to the hot niece is the only thing that feels real about him.
All that aside, there is one thing that infuriates me about this play and that is the treatment of Hermione and Rose. This is true to a degree as well with Ron, whose sole purpose seems to be an idiot. Sad considering how he started as a good character and then by the last book you are wondering why Hermione married him. But don’t worry, the play gives you answers. And here is a spoiler.
If Hermione hadn’t married Ron, she would have been a grouchy teacher at Hogwarts pining for her true love. Because you know, all women need a man to be great.
That pissed me off. Look, I know that Harry Potter is a book about a heroic boy, and that Rowling made that decision because of marketing. But what is the excuse for this play? Rowling doesn’t need the money, and I don’t think she did this for money. She has always been supportive of fan projects. It’s her stomping ground, and it’s great that she shares. I’m not really criticizing her. I am laying the blame for this solely on the shoulders of John Tiffany and Jack Thorne.
One of the flaws in the Harry Potter series, despite the strong girls and women that occupy parts of the story, is how the female characters are used. Those women who seem to be without husbands are teachers and those who are married seem to stay at home. Additionally, one of the things that stands out in the book is how Harry always seems to have Ron (if not the whole Wesley clan) while Hermione seems to have Harry and Ron only sometimes. She is alone in huge parts of the series, while she and Ginny are friends, they are not BBFs. In fact, in some ways, I suspect, her story would be more interesting than Harry’s. Yes, I know it’s Potter’s book, but it is interesting. I also think the reader is supposed to pick up on that aspect, in particular when Molly treats Hermione badly in Goblet (and that is so insulting). Tiffany and Thorne could have broken the stereotype of the bitter unmarried teacher or given Rose some more time on stage. They don’t. And don’t give me the crap about it being a Potter story. Scorpius has a huge section just by himself and without Albus (In fact, at times it seems Scorpius is struggling to take the play away from the writers. I wish he had, I think it would have been better). So they break with tradition there. Rose is just there as an object of affection or longing for Scorpius. She isn’t really a character. The play would function fine without her. In fact, you could be forgiven forgetting who her parents are. Tiffany and Thorne seem aware of this, and use Rose to remind us that Ron Hermione belong together because without Ron, Hermione will not have children and never ever leave Hogwarts. (Though Ron gets married and has children without Hermione). Furthermore, Albus looks like a jerk because he doesn’t seem to get upset about Rose when she disappears from the Timeline. He’s more concerned about people he’s never met.
That’s how he rolls.
We go from a series where we had a trio, including one very powerful and driven girl, to a duo of two males with a girl in a traditional role. Why couldn’t the authors have been brave and given Rose a larger part, examined her character more? Don’t give me that crap about the male. Potter fans are both male and female. They could have kept Albus as the center, and still given Rose more to do.
And the usage of Hermione is worse because not only is it, she needs Ron, but there is a scene where Albus uses a polyjuice potion to disguise himself as Ron. It makes for a very strange and awkward scene with Albus/Ron kissing Hermione more than once. I mean, wouldn’t a nephew be a little grossed out? It feels like fan boys wanting to French Hermione and just ick! Not to mention, whe one considers how Albus and Co gain access to the Minstery, I find it hard to believe (as is leaving the train).
What this play does is actually ruin how Rowling used women and girls in the series. It actually reinforces the stereotypes of fantasy women in some ways, and continues the idea that fantasy is really were men move things. If women do something, they are using their wiles. The play could have epaned the Potterverse more in terms of how the female characters were used, instead, despite Hermione’s role as Minster, it shrinks them.
I could have forgiven the play much, but this use of Hermione and Rose just ruined it for me. Truly.