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Roald Dahl at 100: A Reading List

Longreads

When I was in elementary school in the eighties, being read to in class was such a treat — and something I really miss. The weekly reading hour that I looked forward to the most was when my favorite librarian came to read a few chapters from a Roald Dahl story. (And over the years, she read them all.) I could hardly wait to hear the next prank Mrs. Twit would play on Mr. Twit in The Twits. Another favorite, The Witches, remains one of the stories from my childhood that really opened me up to the magic of reading. Dahl’s whimsical yet macabre and darkly comic stories piqued my imagination for the first time in those years, and — being a shy, quiet kid — showed me that anything was possible.

September 13 is Roald Dahl’s birthday, and 2016 marks 100 years since his birth. To celebrate, here are seven stories about…

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Harry Potter: And The Cursed Child, Review.

In my opinion when reviewing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child it is important to review it as a separate entity to the Harry Potter franchise. Although, it is not completely possible to do this: as the play itself revisits many key aspects of the original novels, it is important to consider the different forms and realise that the difference between a play and a novel is vital to consider.

This has been a big issue as many people who are huge fans of the novels perhaps would expect the same level of detail in the play. When going to purchase the play myself I was wondering through Waterstones, when I saw a man with two young boys put a copy of the play back. He then asked me if I had seen the ‘book version’ of the play and became confused when I explained that there is not one. This struck a chord with me and made me worry that those who did not expect a play, would not enjoy or give it a go.

To read in a play format is very different to reading a novel, it is mostly set out in speech and has short scenes instead of long paragraphs. This to me is effective in Harry Potter as readers were immediately transported back into the land of wizards. “A busy and crowded station, full of people trying to get somewhere. Amongst the hustle and bustle, two large cages rattle on top of two laden trolleys.” For those seasoned Harry Potter fans we are instantly transported to platform nine and three quarters, and in terms of the play the scene is set in an effective way, as it creates the scene of a busy train station.

Focusing on Albus, the son of Harry Potter, the young boy struggles with living up to his fathers heroic reputation, the fact that he has been sorted into Slytherin, and feels like the outsider of his family.He struggles to fit in at Hogwarts and quickly becomes best friends with Scorpius; a Malfoy and rumoured son of the notorious Voldermort. Upon hearing that his dad let Cedric Diggory die, Albus convinces Scorpius to help him use a stolen Time Turner, which creates disastrous consequences and endangers everyone’s life as they know it, threatening to wipe it out completely.

The great elements about the play was the way that magic was written into the play. Something that would be fascinating to see when the play comes to life on stage. Several spells are used, such as the patronus charm, which creates real life animals on stage. There are talking books, characters jumping from one place to another, charms and epic fights between wizards. Although the stage directions did not say how these spells would be performed on stage it is made clear that this would be done and it would be eye-catching. This has transcended in the live stage play with reviews describing the on stage magic. Susannah Clap from The Guardian states: “Under Tiffany’s direction the spell-binding is utterly theatrical, drawing on sleight of hand and Victorian iions. There are engulfing transformations but also small moments of complete simplicity: Halloween lanterns propel themselves through the darkness; in one brilliantly quick flip of costume, kids in mufti become Hogwarts pupils.”

One captivating theme, and what the majority of act one seems to focus on is the growth sand strength of the friendship between Albus and Scorpius. To me, their friendship drives the play. According to the outside world the two should not get along because of who they are: a Potter and a Malfoy, but their innocence and the way they ignore the stigma attached to their names highlights a key theme of the play which i believe to be, the innocence of children and their views of the outside world.  What is also comforting about the boys friendship is that it echoes the strength of the friendship which Ron, Hermione and Harry built throughout the original series of books. As many people reading the play, this could perhaps give them the same feelings as they had when remembering reading the original Harry Potter series and create the same sense of magic and atmosphere to the reader.

Simple child-like language is used to discuss major problems with each other and they help each other through and it is clear that they address the world from a untainted view, and believe that situations can be fixed simply. One instance of this proves to be a major catalyst for the rest of the play. When Albus overhears that a Time Turner still exists  he resolves to fix it and states: “my father couldn’t save him-we can. We’re going to use a Time-Turner. We’re going to bring it back.” In this sentence it is clear that Albus believes that a situation can be fixed clearly and is a clear expression of a theme that runs throughout the play,which is children trying to live in their parent’s shadows, and struggling to create their own identity.

Overall, the play script is a fast-paced monumental success, as long as readers remember that they are reading a play and try to separate it from the original novels, which to me cannot be beaten! I look forward to one day to see the magic live on stage myself and can’t wait to see the next instalments!