Harry Potter, but not as you know him.

By: May. 11, 2024
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Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Friday 10th May 2024.

Potted Potter, subtitled The Unauthorised Harry Experience – A Parody by Dan and Jeff, races through all seven of the novels, in just 70 minutes, with only two performers taking portraying all of the characters. The parody was created by two-time Olivier Award-nominated actors, Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner and it was nominated for the Olivier Award for Best Entertainment and Family Show. It came a long way from its beginning as a five-minute skit to entertain queues outside a bookshop on the release date, waiting to buy the sixth novel in the series, The Half-Blood Prince. This production is performed by Scott Hoatson, listed as Potted 1, the supposed expert on the books and who plays Harry Potter, and Brendan Murphy, Potted 2, who plays the fool, and all of the other characters.

There wouldn’t be too many Muggles out there who haven’t read the books by J. K. Rowling, or seen the films adapted from them and so, therefore, providing a fully detailed synopsis of the entire series here should hardly be required. Harry Potter has many adventures, most involving an arch enemy, or an unpleasant teacher of a disliked subject, as well as all of the usual events of school life: making friends, taking classes, and playing sport, like any schoolboy, but with the addition of magic. That last part is the biggest challenge in a stage adaptation. Flying around on broomsticks, using magic, encountering diverse magical creatures, and all the rest of it, on the stage of the Dunstan Playhouse, is no mean feat and, with only two people, and just over an hour to do so, requires a lot of imagination, and a fair bit of theatrical lunacy.

It is somewhat in the same genre as The Play That Goes Wrong, with the major part of the play being the interaction of the two performers as they attempt to stage the Harry Potter stories, which are the hook on which the mayhem is hung. It relies on the premise that Scott is the knowledgeable one, and that Brendan has not actually read the books, and confuses them with others, such as The Lord of the Rings and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It is that classic comedy duo, the straight man, who is constantly frustrated in his desperate efforts to keep things on track, and the chaotic clown, who goes off on more tangents than a geometry teacher.

It all begins with a lengthy preamble, introducing themselves and taking the dustsheets off of the pieces of set, revealing Brendan’s incompetence, last-minute rush to acquire the pieces, and his well-meaning but disastrous misuse of the budget. The large cast, of the best actors available, aren’t there, so, with Scott playing Harry Potter, Brendan is left to play the other 350 characters in the books. By the time they announced “Book One”, the audience was already in fits of laughter, and it continued until the show ended. Interruptions, digressions, and deviations galore accompanied their dubious efforts to dramatise the novels. There was plenty of nonsense to keep even the youngest fans laughing, but there were numerous references to people in the Muggle world to appeal to us older folk, too.

The creatures, including the basilisk, Fawkes, Nagini, the horn-tailed dragon, dementors, and more, all added to the laughter. Dialogue accelerated as they raced through the larger books, and the physicality became frenetic. The audience participation game of Quidditch, introduced with the theme from Carmina Burana, and played with multiple quaffles, and an unexpectedly hilarious golden snitch, chased by a couple of tiny seekers, was a popular extended interlude.

With time running out, there was another mad rush of dialogue to get through all of the complexities in The Prisoner of Azkaban in order to get onto The Half-Blood Prince, and the horcruxes, and then, finally, The Deathly Hallows. Cue the big finish, a reworking of the lyrics of the Gloria Gaynor song, I Will Survive, to explain the entire final book.

Much applause followed, and the audience left the auditorium singing the praises of the two actors and chatting about their favourite parts of the production. The hubbub in the foyer continued for quite a long time. It seems a shame that it is only here for three performances. Perhaps it will come back someday.


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