Still the result from my London expedition at the beginning of August. I didn't watch any of these plays, I just bought them in bookstores.Pitcairn
: play by Richard Bean. Flippantly described, it's an Age of Sails Lord of the Flies
, featuring the most prominent mutineers of them all. More precisely: after the famous mutiny on the Bounty
, some of the mutineers risked staying in Tahiti, and nine went on with Fletcher Christian, and 20 Polynesians, 14 of whom were women (and only three of these women were on board voluntarily, Christian and the other mutineers had simply kidnapped the rest) and ended up on Pitcairn. If you're read Caroline Alexander's The Bounty
, for my money by far the best book both on the mutiny and its aftermath, you knew the Pitcairn story ended rather bloodily, with the question as to who killed whom and why depending on the various changing accounts the one European survivor, John Adams, gave when Pitcairn was finally found by the navy decades later. (For years after that, it never seems to have occurrred to any of the curious and Bounty-romantisizing people to interview any of the surviving Polynesian women
, until one, nicknamed Jenny, who took the first chance she got to finally leave Pitcairn told her story, and it was anything but complimentary to the European mutineers.)
Now I've watched the three most famous movies on the Bounty
mutiny (Laughton/Gable, Howard/Brando and Hopkins/Gibson as Bligh and Christian respectively, with the last movie the only one reflecting newer research and taking a pro Bligh approach, with the earlier two being all evil Captain versus heroic mutineers), and I've read some novels, but Bean's play is the first depiction focusing exclusively on the mutineers and Polynesians who ended up on Pitcairn, and my Lord of the Flies
comparison is no hyperbole. Bean is also the first author who makes the Polynesians, both female and male, into characters, instead of presenting him as pretty, available and mostly silent and catalysts for the mutiny. He's also trying very hard to avoid the "noble savage" stereotype, not least by presenting them in their own context, where the Polynesians have their own social hierarchy (which the Europeans utterly ignore) and prejudices. Even though, they come across far more sympathetically than the Europeans, whose first idea on how to live their new Utopia is to enslave the Polynesian males, and whose falling out over the women never bothers with their
choices. Bean's solution to what to make of the various contradictory accounts (Adams at various points said Christian had committed suicide, that he was killed by another Polynesian, or by another mutineer, that he became quickly hated or that he remained beloved till the end (the last story being told after Adams had gotten back into contact with people in England and had found out that the story of the mutiny was now firmly pro Christian, anti Bligh in the public consciousness; "Jenny" said all the Polynesians turned against the mutineers and that the women tried to escape Pitcairn by attempting to build a boat, which failed, something that's confirmed in the surviving writings of mutineer Edward Young who also mentions the women were punished for this) is to come up with a twist that I thought was unique to him until rereading Caroline Alexander's book, which mentioned that the very first dramatization of the discovery of Pitcairn had the very same twist. ( The twist in question, and more. )
The question of what exactly happened to cause the mutiny is never addressed, as it's not the point of the play. It's a story where everyone gets a fresh new start but due to the baggage they bring with them - the Europeans ideas of racial superiority, and the confusion of the fact that the women are sexually liberated with the idea that they don't care whom they have sex with, the Polynesians their own hierarchy which divides them from each other and stops them banding together until it is too late - it ends in a far worse state than the one they ran away from. One third into the play, when the Bounty is burned, both mutineers and Polynesians realise they are now in prison, locked together with each other when half of them wants to kill the other half, worse than a prison sentence in England would have been. As Utopia turns Dystopia stories go, this one is told viciously and efficiently. In a can't-turn-my-eyes-away manner; if it's ever staged where I can see it, I will. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
: first of all, let me address something that annoys me in plenty of both negative and positive reviews of this play: said reviews treating JKR as the author. She's not. I repeat: she did not write this play, and never claimed she had.
The credit on the cover is pretty clear: a two part stage play written by Jack Thorne based on an original new story by Thorne, J.K. Rowling and John Tiffany. Which makes Thorne the author, with input by JKR as well as John Tiffany as far as the storyline is concerned.
Maybe a comparison: The Empire Strikes Back
. Script by Lawrence Kasdan and Leigh Brackett. George Lucas did not write it. Of course he had imput in the storyline, and he approved of the final result. But I can't count the number of criticisms of Lucas as a scriptwriter which sooner or later bring up the fact the ESB script was written by two solid veterans as an explanation why that movie is the favourite of most fans, who point to Leigh Brackett's Bogart-Bacall-Hawks past as having influenced the Han and Leia scenes, etc. By the same measure, it might be more useful to compare HP and the Cursed Child
to earlier work by Thorne for the tv series Skins
or his plays than it is to compare it to JKR's novels.
All of this being said, here we go: I enjoyed reading this two part play tremendously. I haven't read much Next Generation fanfiction to compare it too, but it should surprise me if previous takes on Scorpius Malfoy resemble this one, who is an adorable geek and very much his own character, not Draco or Sirius revisited. Now the last two HP novels had made me have some pity and sympathy for Draco and the Malfoys in general (with the caveat that joining a genocidal bastard voluntarily not being a good idea should have been kind of obvious), but this play finally made me like
Draco, without negating or prettifying his previous history in the slightest. The adult interaction between him, Harry, Hermione and Ginny feels both plausible and satisfying to me. Harry with the best of intentions struggling with fatherhood and this textually explicitly being tied back to his being raised by the Dursleys on the one hand and having Albus Dumbledore for a mentor on the other also makes character sense to me. And while "son of famous man struggles with expectations, developes massive issues" is anything but new as a concept, I thought Albus Potter was a good variation of the theme. I also liked the Albus-Ginny parallels; they have a scene together that brings up Ginny's Tom Riddle experience just rightly.
Being a genre fan, I'm of course familiar with the central plot device - ( which is spoilery )
- with Star Trek, Farscape and Buffy all having done memorable episodes using it. Cursed Child
offers ( Spoilers. )
It also fits with the fact that all ensemble characters, past and present, dead and alive, contribute to saving the world: hooray for team work!
Complaints: not really. I mean, Spoilery New Character is more of a plot device than a character, but otoh New Character triggers both the aforementioned Ginny and Albus scene, and has one with Harry which is totally my kind of messed up: ( in spoilery ways. )
I'm really looking forward to seeing this scene acted out on stage in a year or so when tickets become reasonably available.