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Review: POTTED POTTER at Shakespeare Theatre Company

The production runs through July 17

In the spacious and comfortable Sidney Harman Hall of the Shakespeare Theatre Company, a group of wizards, muggles, adults, and children sat down to watch Potted Potter (The Unauthorized Harry Experience). The show is a parody of the world-famous Harry Potter novels, and encapsulates all seven in just over an hour. It was created and written by Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner, or as listed on the program as "Dan and Jeff, who were also the original performers of the show.

The parody, which was geared toward children, featured two performers (Scott Hoatson and Joseph Maudsley), who took the audience through the books one by one, both telling the audience the story ( a la faux reading it from the books), and acting it out through silly costumes, song, dance, puppets, and many other animated antics.

The actors were clad only in jeans and black t-shirts, reading "Potter 1" and "Potter 2" respectively. The outfits allowed the actors to quickly change between characters via wigs, hats, and even voices.

While looking the same, each actor gave different performances. Of course, both were quite over the top and flamboyant, much to the delight of the children, but in summation, the pair acted as foils. Hoatson had the responsibility of playing, well, the responsible one, the A-type personality, whereas Maudsley played the rambunctious, wild, and hard to reign in opposite.

Maudsley definitely elicited many laughs throughout the night, and was more of the fool, or jester (prone to slapstick and improvisation), however one can not understate the skill it takes to play the stiff collar, and rigid juxtaposition.

The whole show was played in front of an unchanging set (by Simon Scullion). At the top of the show, the entirety of the set was covered in large grey sheets, creating interesting and dynamic silhouettes. They were soon revealed to be comical structures mostly unrelated to the world of Harry Potter, or only tangentially (much to the chagrin of Hoaston). The stage image was quite bizarre, but not unfitting for the show. Behind the colorful rag-tag objects were much large, angular shapes, that created a backdrop, perhaps suggesting the skyline of Hogwarts.
Inside (presumably) the three main set pieces, lived all the costumes and props the actors used, causing the performers to constantly run in and out of, much to comical effect.

The centerpiece, a faux wardrobe, opened up to be a projector screen, onto which was projected one of the synopses of the books (video by Tom Hillenbrand). The animation style was naive and silly, and the whole section was actually very enjoyable, with many sound effects and the performers talking at a quick speed to keep up.

Review: POTTED POTTER at Shakespeare Theatre Company
Potted Potter courtesy of Potted Potter.

The plot is of course just that of the novels, with of course much left out and the funnier bits focuses on and exaggerated. However, there was a small sliver of internal substance presented throughout the show. Maudsley and Hoatson had small character arcs, each one facilitating the other, and coming together to show some meaning independent of the licensed material, dealing with friendship, and how great it is to have someone to tell a story with (there was indeed an epic hug).

A lot of the show was punctuated by the lighting, which denoted different sections of the piece (synopsis of the book vs. the performers' meta talking) or used to punctuate a joke or bit. It was punchy, and incredibly well-timed, and like the rest of the show, a bit over the top, but in a very appropriate manner.

The show obviously lends itself to fans of the massively successful franchise, and would probably do little to entertain someone who is either not a fan, or not familiar. And of course, it is also targeted towards children, who, at this particular performance, were quite zealous and seemed to be having a great time. The performers did a phenomenal job of keeping the younger ones' attention, and the show was interspersed with different types of audience interaction, ranging from simple call and response to hoping on a pantomimed broom and flying it around with other audience members. There were parts throughout the show though, that could possibly press on a more mature audience member's patience, however as stated, they are not the target audience for the show, and the cast members were generous enough to throw in some more adult-suited jokes over the heads of the children.

Without presenting much inherent substance (and not really needing to), this comedy resolves itself to be massively entertaining to children and offers a good laugh or two, and perhaps more, if you are a "Potter-head." Take off your thinking caps, and put on your round spectacles for a night of fun, music, and of course, intense audience interaction.

The show runs through July 17th, and comes in at about 70 minutes with no intermission. Information on tickets can be found on Shakespeare Theatre Company's website, shakespearetheatre.org.

All photos courtesy of Potted Potter.

 




From This Author - Tavish Young

Tavish Young is a writer and creative living and working in Maryland. After a childhood in the theatre, Tavish has explored acting, playwriting, set design, and costuming, and has studied the art at... (read more about this author)


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