So, about that accursed play…

12 Jun

I don’t think we really wanted to talk about this, but I feel like we probably need to. (Also: we’re still working on the next chapter of Philosopher’s Stone, I swear we’ll finish shredding that book eventually. Then there are only six more to go… FML.)

(Loten adds: my bad, guys. As I mentioned on my FFN profile, I’m tangled up in ‘real life’, in the process of buying a house, working a lot more, etc etc. It’s hard to find time to settle in for a few hours of book shredding. Once I’ve moved into the new place, sometime in the next few months, things should be easier and our posts should be a lot more regular. In the meantime, sorry!)

This is the most complete plot summary we’ve seen, if you need to catch up.

And for the record, we first learnt about this from this DTCL thread. So thanks for covering this and giving me a jumping off point.

It seems like Rowling is trying to insist on keeping the plot secret, and a lot of people have been humouring her, so for a while it was hard to discern the truth amidst the rumours. Truthfully, we had a hard time believing a lot of what was being said also; a lot of the rumoured plot points sound like bad attempts at trolling. We had no intention of paying through the nose to see it and even less desire to do so now, but that said, I do agree with the people who have been saying that all of this secrecy is insulting to the fans who cannot afford to travel or buy overpriced tickets for this rubbish. At least let them learn the plot, for fuck’s sake.

(I assume she knew deep down that if anyone found out the plot there’s no way in hell they’d fork out to go and see it or to buy the script when it’s published.)

So far, what I’ve been able to discern is that the plot of this thing resembles what would happen if you fed the content of into an algorithm, and then decided the result wasn’t stupid enough. Go get your badfic bingo cards and strap in.

We’ve got a villain who could not be more of a barely-literate teenager’s OC, right down to the implausibly coloured hair, whose very existence contradicts canon to a ludicrous extent. An insane ‘plot’ involving all the time-travel garbage Rowling always claimed to hate dealing with. And a protagonist bearing deep emotional scars because Harry went on to become even more of an abusive asshole than we predicted he would.

I have also run across a common apologetic, which goes something like this: “Of course it sounds stupid when you just list off the plot! It was written as a play, so you have to see it in that format before judging it! Lots of plays seem lacklustre in script form. When you add in the stage effects and the suchlike, it’s pretty good.” Well, to answer that in one word: bullshit. Okay, so it looks pretty, special effects are fun and you see people playing recognisable characters, so fucking what? It’s still a remarkably stupid, shallow and incoherent story, and adds absolutely nothing of interest to the greater canon.

(Me again. As I said on Skype a couple of days ago when we were first discussing this, I’m not sure how seeing a bunch of people who don’t look or sound anything like my headcanons acting out a really bad story is any better than reading about the bad story. If anything, I think it would be worse. I resent the implication that we’re all toddlers who can be distracted by shiny things and forget to be upset.)

I think that’s about the extent of what I want to say about it. Except, perhaps, this: it has apparently given us alternative timelines in which Hermione becomes a rather Snapelike professor, and in which Snape apparently survives (possibly not simultaneously, but I suppose we can hope?), so there may be some potential for half-decent fanfic in those. I leave that possibility open to any authors interested in taking it on. (Likewise, I will admit to having taken some pleasure in watching the Ron/Hermione shippers implode over various implications in the play.)

Anyway, Rowling’s a hack and her involvement in this travesty does not speak well of her as a writer. Of course, her writing and plotting abilities have always been rather poor, so has her knowledge of her own canon, as we’ve been discovering over the course of our reread… but as low as the bar was, she’s failed to surmount it. That’s rather impressive, honestly.


Posted by on June 12, 2016 in loten, mitchell


Tags: , , , , , ,

22 responses to “So, about that accursed play…

  1. Kazavan

    June 12, 2016 at 6:51 pm

    I think I wish I hadn’t clicked that link. It can’t really be that bad, can it? Time travel plots suck. Though if they’d actually intended to write a traditional farce type play, it sounds like this plot would definitely fit it.

    • mcbender

      June 12, 2016 at 7:26 pm

      It really is unbelievable, isn’t it? (Or ‘incredible’ in the old sense of the word.) I also wish I hadn’t read it, on some level, but then on another I’m a literary masochist so I’m not sure I’m justified saying that. I agree with you that it could’ve made a decent farce, but somehow I don’t think that’s what they were going for – unless, maybe, there were some miscommunications between authors about what genre this thing was supposed to be?

      Weirdly, I don’t completely hate time travel plots; I do enjoy them in fanfic, sometimes, because it can be used as a device to get different characters to interact with each other at different stages in their lives (or, sometimes, just to take one of the few decent characters from the ‘present’ generation and send them into the past where the more interesting characters live, or at least the characters Rowling played with less to give the author more room to work with). But that said, I consider that something of a guilty pleasure; it’s usually a horrendously bad idea because it’s so easy to do it wrong. For instance, I’ve seen people trying to compare this play to Back to the Future, which is not a compliment in my view (but does support your view that farce is the proper genre for it).

  2. helgeke

    June 12, 2016 at 7:03 pm

    I have today finally given up hope that these spoilers are trolling. Eh, fortunately there’s good fanfiction to read.

    • mcbender

      June 12, 2016 at 7:39 pm

      Haha, yes. Truthfully, on some level I’m almost hoping someone manages to smuggle a bootleg camera in so everyone can see the fail… not that I really want to see it, but it’s so ludicrous I wouldn’t mind the confirmation.

  3. janach

    June 12, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    Every opera buff knows that magnificent music, great singing, good acting and directing, creative sets and costumes, and flashy special effects can persuade one to excuse a really horrible script. But that doesn’t keep a horrible script from being a horrible script. I’m sure some top-notch West End production values have gone into this monstrosity, but JKR does not have Verdi to make us forget how ridiculous it is when the mother throws the wrong baby into the fire. And Puccini wouldn’t touch this monstrosity with a ten-foot baton.

  4. drashizu

    June 12, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    I read that summary a couple days ago and was astonished – the time travel aspect of it alone is a remarkable departure from the book canon. In the books, time is “set” and no amount of time travel will ever alter it – time travelers are already a part of what happened in the past, they don’t go barging around causing alternate realities and changing things.

    And I had to read the sentence where apparently Time-Turners have five-minute time limits several times before it sank in. That is terrible and not at all consistent with the books. Unless every Time-Turner in the Ministry of Magic was made, presumably by same wizard, some time after he made the prototype seen in this play. Who knew?

    Don’t even get me started on the nonsense of expecting two 12-year-olds to accurately count out the hundreds of thousands of turns they would need to make it back to 1994, moving hour by hour. Doubly so that when the Time-Turner is destroyed, they “somehow” by “mistake” (*cough* authorial hamhandedness) get transported even farther back to that particular night in 1981, rather than a randomly-chosen hour sometime between Cedric’s death and modern day.

  5. nonny

    June 13, 2016 at 9:44 am

    Hahaha, I read that article on TheDailyBeast yesterday and just about died laughing. I’ve never been very excited about The Cursed Child, because I don’t think Harry Potter needs a sequel, and a story about the second generation of kids is actually the one thing I’m least interested in. There are a dozen more interesting plots in Harry Potter that could be explored (something about the four founders for example), so why does it have to be the kids ffs? Anyway, the whole thing basically passed me by and I didn’t pay any attention to it. Until yesterday I actually thought it was already over and done with. Oh well.

    That plot summary has actually made me somewhat interested in the whole thing, but not in a wow-that-sounds-really-cool way. More in a what-the-hell-is-this way. Some parts honestly sound like they came right out of a very bad fanfiction, or like the author of the article is trolling us. Still, I’ll not judge the play until I’ve seen it (I’m about 90% sure there will be at least one bootleg around sooner or later, or maybe they’ll actually realease a DVD of the play if it’s not a total flop). I’ve read some reviews from people who’ve seen the previews, and they all seemed to like it; apparently the acting is great, the dialogues are very funny (in a good way), the old characters are still in-character, and the new characters are very likable. So while the plot does sound ridiculous, I wouldn’t shit all over the play before I’ve actually seen it. After all, a plot summary is only that: a PLOT summary. It doesn’t say anything about the acting, the dialogues, the characters, the music, the atmosphere, the sets and costumes or the special effects. And while the ridiculous plot is of course not erased by fancy looking effects, I do think that the characters, if they are interesting and likeable, can carry the plot, even if it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

    • nonny

      June 18, 2016 at 11:23 am

      And another thing. This:

      “Snape lets him into a secret room where Hermione and Ron are in hiding. Hermione is the most wanted wizard in the world. They are stunned to hear that in the alternate reality they are happily married, and Hermione is Minister for Magic. Snape realizes that he must be dead in the other world.”

      amuses the crap out of me. Snape hears that Hermione and Ron are married in another universe so he concludes he must be dead there? Whyy? That makes no sense. Unless Hermione dumped Ron for Snape in the universe where he’s still alive and they’re a couple there. Is that what you’re trying to tell us, JKR?

      • Loten

        June 20, 2016 at 3:49 pm

        I approve this comment.

  6. All-I-need

    June 13, 2016 at 11:59 am

    What the hell did I just read? My eyes are bleeding.
    Now I know why I stayed far away from all the spoilers up to now. This makes no sense. None. It really does read like all the badfics put together. My most random pet peeve is that apparently Albus gets a kiss which makes him blush. I’m reasonably sure this is not going to be visible to a theatre audience at all.
    I’m not even going to comment on the whole time turner and time travel fail. This entire plot is a train wreck.

  7. janach

    June 23, 2016 at 7:07 pm

    It’s not a completely unreasonable stage direction. A good actor can make it clear to the audience that the character is feeling the emotions that go with blushing, even though he can’t blush on cue and the audience couldn’t see it if he could. It’s one of the things that makes stage acting different from film acting: the actions have to be broader so they can be seen and identified from the back row of the balcony.

  8. JoWrites

    July 29, 2016 at 8:08 am

    I don’t know how to hide them in comments here but SPOILERS for those who don’t want to read them about the play.

    So I’m right in the middle of running a HP time travel fest with the plot of this began leaking and all I’ve heard about since is how much everyone hates time travel. I love time travel, but I don’t like this time travel. It’s not even how she does the time travel that bothers me. I prefer the closed loop and I think she shouldn’t have changed the type of time travel while being in the same universe, but that part of the plot really doesn’t bother me.

    It’s the abusive dad part that bothers me. Like irrationally bothers me.

    The whole rumour about Scorpius and that Harry would even believe it for a second.

    I love that Albus and Scorpius are best friends, even if they should be Ravenclaws with Rose and not Slytherins. 😛 And some of the things I read sounded like she was trying to pander to fans (Draco/Hermione is supposed to be hinted at in one time line, and I’m forgetting what else.) I’m an Albus/Scorpius fan so I’ve requested it from my library and people insist there are some slash moments between them, but it will probably anger me. (Scorpius blatantly crushes on Rose, ugh)

    • mcbender

      July 29, 2016 at 10:27 pm

      I know what you mean. I think “eww, time travel” is probably the lowest-hanging fruit available for criticism of this thing, so naturally that’s where people go first (and many then don’t go further). I do think it’s fair to say that time travel plots are quite difficult to do well, and probably more difficult than most other stock plot devices, and that this particular plot looks to have been particularly ill-thought-out. As you say, it’s really only the beginning of what’s wrong with this thing. It’s one thing to do a time-travel plot, it’s quite another to then also throw characterisation to the wind for shock value.

    • Loten

      July 30, 2016 at 7:14 am

      Honestly, the abusive dad part is possibly the most realistic aspect of the clusterfuck. We’ll be commenting more on Harry’s developing issues in later books, but one of the many, MANY reasons I despise the Epilogue-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named is that Harry would be an awful and possibly dangerous parent and would not raise 2.3 happy shiny well-adjusted children. He’s got the history (allegedly), he develops some alarming anger issues, he’s extremely emotionally underdeveloped, and while I maintain he’s too thick to be traumatised he does go through some traumatic things. He becomes a fairly terrible person and I can easily see that leading to a lot of suffering for the spare child who wasn’t a narratively convenient and psychologically troubling dead-parent clone. Particularly since Ginny seems to have become even more of a nonperson since her marriage and seems not to be involved in anything ever.

      I’m indifferent to time travel. I like it as a concept but I’ve never seen it done in a way that satisfied me, I always think of potential problems that aren’t addressed. And being part of the SSHG ship, most time travel fics are contrived excuses to minimise the age difference, and if that’s your primary motivation you’re going to write a terrible time travel story.

  9. hi

    August 1, 2016 at 6:18 pm

    So, apparently JKR decided to reeeally drive home the point that Snape was a hero in TCC, probably after having people on Twitter shout at her on a daily basis that Snape ia a horrible person, that he does not deserve to be forgiven by Harry, that he’s abusive, or a stalker, or whatever else haters come up with. Here are some quotes from the actual play: . I love the 3rd one. Snape is still sarcastic as ever.

    • Loten

      August 2, 2016 at 7:19 am

      Interesting, since JKR herself has made it abundantly clear she still hates Snape, or did the last time he was mentioned on Pottermore. I’m not sure I buy she’s done a complete 180 since then but I’m not going to argue with more pro-Snape lines, even if most of these aren’t anything new and some of the ones attributed to him sound a little off.

    • hi

      August 3, 2016 at 2:00 pm

      After some searching today I found the complete script of TCC online. I’ve only skimmed through it, but it seems to be the real deal.!TZUkVRzQ!UfwQwHen0azAaIXYPwIFpKJRaw03O2IObNkE5P7ofro

      • mcbender

        August 3, 2016 at 4:12 pm

        It’s real. I’d already acquired a copy elsewhere and am in the process of reading through and sporking it (we’ll have posts about it soon, I hope), and I can confirm that’s it. The page numbering in that is different from the ebook I have but it looks like the same content.

        Don’t know how long it’s going to take me to finish the read through, though, because I’m already in a great deal of pain and have only gotten through a couple of scenes.

  10. janach

    August 3, 2016 at 6:56 pm

    I’ve just started reading Act One Scene Two of Cursed Child, and I found this:

    HERMIONE: That’s nothing, Rose is worried whether she’ll break the Quidditch scoring record in her first or second year. And how early she can take her O.W.L.s.
    RON: I have no idea where she gets her ambition from.

    With an attitude like that, Rose is the one who should be Sorting Slytherin. Either she successfully begged and pleaded for the Hat to save her from the evil House of Snakes, or the Hat doesn’t go by character at all but entirely by family.

    I don’t look at your heart or head,
    But at your family name.
    Whatever House your dad was in,
    I’ll Sort you just the same.

    • mcbender

      August 3, 2016 at 10:11 pm

      Very good point. I’ll be addressing this in my readthrough of Cursed Child that I’m working on now. It’s slow going, though, because this stuff is intolerable and I’m stopping to rant every sentence or two.

      That said, I am also pleasantly surprised that you’ve managed a Sorting Hat rhyme that actually scans. So far neither the books nor the play have managed that.

      • janach

        August 3, 2016 at 11:43 pm

        Whenever I write verse, I have the ghost of W.S. Gilbert looking over my shoulder, saying, “That’s not good enough! Keep working until you get it right!”


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