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The stage play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is apparently centred around the Harry Potter universe and while starting after his adventures in the primary book series seems to involve various ventures and references to past events, too.

I thus wonder, to which degree it can be enjoyed without too much of a thorough knowledge of the Harry Potter book series. Now, I would assume it won't bother much with reintroducing the whole universe and the major characters, so somewhat of a general knowledge of how the universe works and who is who seems to be required. But it's unclear to me how much of the actual plot from the book series or detailed historical background information about the universe is really required to understand and enjoy the play.

If that is too vague for you, let's get more specific by asking straight away if someone who has only seen the film adaptations of the book series will be able to thoroughly understand and enjoy the theatre play. Now, I'm sure there's various little references that one might not completely get, but is the primary story and the themes of the play still well-digestible for movie-only heretics?


The answer to this question might naturally involve spoilers about the play. I personally don't care about them but for the courtesy of others reading this question, which is basically a pre-viewing question, you might want to consider hiding them behind spoiler-markup. But please make sure the answer still makes general sense without the spoiler blocks.

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    It's written like a bad fanfiction with latin soap elements. You have to be familiar with the characters described in the books and their relationships (or at least watched all the 8 films.) – user68762 Aug 6 '16 at 5:27
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Just the plot of the main series

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child makes frequent references to events and characters from the books. Having read the books (or watched the movies) will greatly facilitate understanding the play. Examples:

  • RON: Are you aware of the Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes–certified nose-stealing breath?

    Someone who does not know what Weasley's Wizard Wheezes are will be lost here.

  • Knowing the identity of Severus Snape is necessary to follow this scene. Also, someone who has not read Book 7 might be very confused.

    HARRY: Albus Severus, you were named after two headmasters of Hogwarts. One of them was a Slytherin and he was probably the bravest man I ever knew.

  • The play mentions Cedric Diggory:

    AMOS: My son, Cedric, you do remember Cedric, don’t you?

    HARRY (remembering Cedric hurts him): Yes, I remember your son. His loss —

    AMOS: Voldemort wanted you! Not my son! You told me yourself, the words he said were, “Kill the spare.” The spare. My son, my beautiful son, was a spare.

    Without knowing much about Cedric's life and death, this scene could be quite confusing on first viewing.

These are just a few examples. Knowledge of the basic events of the entire series is necessary to completely understand the play.

That said, someone who has only seen the movies should be fine. All the important plot points are ones that were mentioned or depicted in the films, as well as the books.

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Please be noted that this does include spoilers so be warned. You'll be needing the following knowledge:

First Book (Philosopher's Stone)

  • Who is Harry Potter. This is self explanitory.
  • How Harry's parent's died and who they are. One of the last parts in Cursed Child show Harry's parent's death and Delphini's last attempt at meeting Voldemort also included the day his parents died.
  • Harry's sorting. In the beginning of the story, he says to Albus that the sorting hat would take his choice into account when sorting him. Harry asked the sorting hat to sort him in his first year. -How the golden trio came to be. You wouldn't know who Ron or Hermione were if you haven't read the first book. It is the book that describes how they look like and "exaggerates" their character.

Second Book (Chamber of Secrets)

  • It tells of Voldemort's real name. (Tom Marvolo Riddle) You wouldn't get one of the bookshelf riddles if you haven't found out his real name.

Third Book (Prisoner of Azkaban)

  • It teaches you about dementors and the wonders of chocolate.

Fourth Book (Goblet of Fire)

  • Who Cedric Diggory is and how he died. Albus and Scorpius try to prevent Cedric from dying for most of the story. Delphi also pretends to be his cousin as a part of her plot to bring Voldemort back.

  • What exactly is the Triwizard Tournament. You'd have to know the tasks in the triwizard tournament in order to understand the part where they time travel back to humiliate Cedric.

Fifth Book (Order of the Pheonix)

  • You won't know how much of a pain Umbridge is and can be. (She is evil!!!)

Sixth Book (Half-Blood prince)

  • It tells you that Dumbledore died. (I felt too sad to write about this...)

  • It tells the history of Tom Riddle. You wouldn't know how he was conceived or how he turned dare if you haven't read it.

  • It tells you how Voldemort can be defeated. It tells us about his horcruxes and how to destroy them.

Seventh Book (Deathly Hallows)

  • It has the battle of Hogwarts. You'd be completely clueless about what happened and what caused Harry to die in the alternate universe.

  • It tell of where Snape's loyalties lie. You won't know that he loved Lily so he was with Dumbledore.

  • The Cursed Child starts where the last book left off. I have no need to explain.

I personally would recommend you to read all the books because you won't understand the next book if you skip one. Each book has something important in it so take your time reading them all.

  • So it seems the only thing from all of this that you don't also get from the films is "the history of Tom Riddle...how he was conceived or how he turned dare". – TARS Sep 21 '16 at 10:15
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Note: I shall be writing this as if advising someone who was new to the Harry Potter series entirely, who wanted to read Cursed Child without going through the bother of every bit of Harry Potter lore.

The (spoiler-free) review done by a 10-year-old states that

"It’s a very complicated story. It happens in different times, so it’s really helpful if you know all the other books and characters quite well"

If you want to jump straight into reading The Cursed Child, the absolute necessary material is probably

  • Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire:

This will introduce you to important themes that are central in The Cursed Child such as the Triwizard Tournament and Cedric Diggory, which are central to the plot.

  • Book 5: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

This is due to the fact that it is perhaps the most important book in terms of understanding the

rise of Voldemort and the nature of the dark arts and his followers

and characters such as Severus Snape and Dorlores Umbridge, who are important in the middle acts.

  • Watching the films for: Book/Film 6: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, as this is important for understanding the relationships between many of the important characters in Cursed Child. It is also important for understanding the basis of the antagonist's power.

Horcruxes- and how to destroy them.

The last three films do a good job of portraying most of the original source material, but it's critical to read the book versions of 4 & 5 because the films have to compress a lot of information into the screen version, and as such they lose a lot of the plot.

That being said, I would recommend you read everything in order before you even consider watching the films, and then go onto the Cursed Child; especially as the Cursed Child was not actually written by JK Rowling, and reads much differently to one of her books.

  • "I would recommend you read everything in order before you even consider watching the films, and then go onto the Cursed Child" - Is this personal advice decoupled from the actual question or can you also provide reasons for that, too? – TARS Aug 7 '16 at 14:20
  • A bit of both; mostly just because the cursed child is written as a script, and therefore reads much differently from the actual books. Other reasons are the fact that the plot in itself is very self-aware, following an almost "what if" structure that makes it feel a bit like fanfiction. Ultimately, the fact that it's not written by Rowling herself means that I wouldn't want fans who'd never read her works going away without an accurate view of the way she writes. – Mikasa Aug 8 '16 at 19:15

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