Author: J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne & John Tiffany.
***NOTE: SPOILERS. Please don’t read this if you haven’t read or seen the play. There are spoilers and reading this review will spoil your enjoyment of the play. You’ve been warned.***
The eagerly awaited part 8 of the Harry Potter series. For the most part this lived up to the expectations and was a good addition to the HP canon.
The story follows the school years of the children of the original Harry Potter characters. We have best-friends *wink-wink* Albus, son of Harry and Ginny, and Scorpius, son of Draco and the late Astoria. Both Slytherin boys are social outcasts at Hogwarts because of their reputation: Albus as the son of The Boy Who Lived and Scorpius as the falsely perceived son of Voldemort. They get up to all sorts of antics, one of which the core plot revolves around.
First of all the format; it’s told in a play form. At first it was odd not having any prose or descriptions but I soon grew used to it. It worked perfectly in the play format as the dialogue and stage directions were well written.
The characters were all well developed. I loved reading about the next generation of witches and wizards. Albus and Scorpius really stole the show for me. They’re dynamic as best friends was really enjoyable to read. They riffed off one another well, and it was a realistic pairing. I thought it was really interesting how both sons had troubled relationships with their fathers. It was great that Rowling put the spotlight on Albus rather than James and Lily who got on better with their parents. Delphi was also a convincing villain.
Plot-wise, it was a roller-coaster. From the school antics to the Ministry for Magic and the familial dramas, it had everything. There wasn’t a scene that lacked in interest. The whole play was compelling from start to finish. The time travel plot was mind blowing. It’s difficult to write about time travel in terms of potential plot holes but this play was polished and tightly written. I enjoyed the mixture of fantasy and sci-fi and it was good to go back in time to the Tri-Wizard tournament and see Albus and Scorpius try and save Cedric’s life. The consequences of his survival in future were comical at times and even scary.
The one thing that did bother me, which I hate to say but it’s the elephant in the room, is Albus and Scorpius’ “friendship.” Their friendship was believable. They were the greatest of friends. Very loyal to each other and all that. Which is fine. Great to see two marginalised kids getting on. But there came a point in the play where their friendship became something more than just companionship. They clearly had romantic feelings for one other. I don’t care what you say. Harry and Ron’s friendship was written differently to Albus and Scoripus’. Both pairs are loyal, close to one another and happy to see each other. But A&S are positioned and written in a way that suggests they feel more than just friendship for one another. But their intimacy is just noted as “friendship.”
When Scorpius sees Albus getting on with Delphi he feels jealous of them. When they’re not allowed to be around each other because of their fathers’ wishes, they both feel a sense of emptiness, dread and sadness. When they tell each other they’d die for each other. When Scorpius is gut-wrenched to learn that Albus doesn’t exist after the two travel back to the present having changed the past. There’s all this intimacy between them. All these indications point to them being romantically involved with one another.
But then in the end Scorpius asks Rose out. WHAT? Yes there are slight indications that he likes her at the beginning but what? The feelings that the boys exhibit towards Delphi and Rose are nothing compared to how they feel for one another. Look, I’m not one to fawn over fanfic or shipping. I don’t care for that, but here in this play is a same-sex relationship that has been forbidden from coming alive. Yes, you can say maybe they get together in the future but it’s not in the play. It’s not written in paper. It’s not canon. And what has JK Rowling to lose because of this? Nothing. She has money, she can write anything she wants. She’s gone on about how she’s an LGBT ally and I thank her for everything she’s done for literacy in younger people and giving us the Harry Potter series, and even presenting us with the wonderful gay character of Dumbledore. But where is the representation on paper? Where are the canon LGBT characters? This was the perfect moment for visible, realistic, representative gay characters.
It just makes me feel a bit sad and disappointed that with such an amazing and prolific writer constructed this amazing same-sex relationship between two teen boys and then pulled the rug out from us at the very last moment. I don’t understand why the writers did that. We have to stop seeing LGBT as adult, or being risky, or inappropriate for children. There are probably millions of people, both young and old, who read and saw this play and who were denied the inclusion of an identity that was so obvious in the character interactions. It’s not enough to talk about LGBT, you have take action, and I feel that this play fell at the very last hurdle. A wonderful piece of inclusion and representation was just out of hands reach.
It does make me sad and disappointed that at the very end of this enjoyable and tremendously well written play that we didn’t get the piece of social inclusion and same-sex romance that we had been teased with throughout the whole play. I just wish they had had the courage to include it. I hate the idea that they were pressured by the producers to write a more “family friendly” version. It is a great play, but my heart is heavy after finishing it. It could have been much much more.