The Potter series has always stretched the imagination, but a narrative mind is charmed to work overtime in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the new stage play from J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany, billed as the eighth Potter story, 19 years later. Released in book form for both posterity and audiences who lack proximity to the current sold-out West End production, Scholastic’s publication of the Cursed Child rehearsal script manages to throw a wild new wrench into the Potter series, unlocking a rarely tapped portal of the reader’s imagination in a way no Potter book has before.
Much of that belongs to the medium of the story: A play which whizzes through locations and tableaus over four disorienting acts. It’s a beast to behold, but Thorne (from a story he conceived with Rowling and Tiffany) writes without limits. The playwright never dares to let the bounds of a proscenium performance limit the magic (or the set pieces) conjured up in the just-enough stage descriptions he includes, and the result is a script that demands to be seen. For perhaps the first time ever, the ceaseless wonders of Rowling’s wizarding world now come accompanied with an indescribable “How?” that cascades over the entire narrative. It’s theatre, plain and simple, and this interrogative purview of Harry’s existence is not a distraction but a gleeful new challenge tasked to readers and their imaginations. (Cynically, it’s also the ultimate marketing tool in getting thee to a box office.)
Heads inflate, bookcases eat, duels detonate in grand fashion, and centaurs and Dementors abound — all the markings of non-restraint on Thorne, Rowling, and Tiffany’s part, and thankfully so. Cursed Child teems with the clever, cerebral thrills we’ve come to demand in a Potter tale, especially one following in the line of succession behind the ur-mature Deathly Hallows. And all this, regardless of the story’s meta medium. Stage directions have been chosen with laser focus, and although the onus to perform the dialogue falls heavy on the reader, the force to think in this classic form does in fact wash away fairly quickly.