Theatre – Potted Potter

Venue: Everest Theatre, Seymour Centre
Written By: Daniel Clarkson, Jefferson Turner
Directed By: Richard Hurst

First seen at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2006, Potted Potter: The Unauthorised Harry Experience – A Parody by Dan and Jeff has since toured internationally for a decade. This immensely popular show is back in Australia by magical demand having previously performed here in 2012 and 2014.

Potted Potter promises to condense seven of J.K. Rowling’s Potter books into 70 minutes, following the example of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare in 90 Minutes. To be truthful, Potted Potter’s connection to the life and times of Harry Potter, unlike The Complete Works is very slender, but it is nonetheless a very funny evening’s entertainment for those between 8 and 80.

For the two actors, Joseph Maudesly and James Percy, maintaining a high interest level in their mixed audience is a challenge managed with verve and good judgement. Maudesley plays an appropriately bumbling Harry (except when he is tricked into being a Snitch), and a robust James Percy, aided by a variety of headpieces from red sequined horns (Lord Voldemort) to a straw hat with blonde plaits attached (Hermione), plays all other characters.

The two quickly establish a running gag based on the premise that Maudesley has given Percy a substantial sum of money to provide whizz-bang effects on a parallel to the special effects in Potter movies. Percy continually disappoints the boy wizard by producing very paltry items giving the excuse that he has spent the money allotted to him on an amazingly frightening, fire-breathing, electronic dragon that will swoop down from the heights. The audience is completely delighted when the dragon proves to be yet another letdown, and manipulated by Percy, embarrasses Potter with silly manoeuvres.

The performance has a pantomime feel to it with topical jokes (Trump of course, and Emma Watson’s speech on feminism to the UN) and slapstick comedy. It is no surprise then to find a girl and a boy from the audience chosen as Seekers and cajoled into catching the Snitch (Maudesley in a particularly ludicrous outfit). Great is the joy of the audience when the sassy little girl brings the Snitch down in one blow. Huge is their enjoyment when divided into Slytherins and Gruffledors the audience engage in a vigorous across-theatre version of Quidditch.

So the books go swiftly by with memorable moments such as The Deathly Hallows reinvented as the death dealing hellos, and come to a spectacular end with a disco duel/duet, “Survival” sung by Potter and his arch-enemy Voldemort. The excited audience tumble out, the young still giggling and not quite sure what they have seen.

Has there been anything more to the show than a salutation of fantasy through references to Shrek, to an imaginary title Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, to Oompa Loompas, and through the wardrobe placed centre stage to remind us of Narnia? Maybe … if we paid attention to Potter’s speech given prior to the duet and after he has received the cloak of invisibility.

September 19-23, 2018.

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