Potted Potter, the unauthorised parody show making a return to Australia, promises to tell the story of all seven Harry Potter books in seventy minutes (with a game of Quidditch thrown in, for fun). With a zany one and his straight man, performed by Ben Stratton and James Percy, the ride promises to be a fun one – as long as you’re already Potter fan.
In a seventy minute time limit, there’s not a lot of time to delve into the finer plot points and mythology of the beloved series, so the show doesn’t really pretend to try. Wigs represent different characters in the series (sometimes they make sense) and the accents float and change depending more on humour than on accuracy, which is how it should be. The show zips almost into the second book, which is around when the boys realise that they haven’t yet introduced one of the more important characters in the series. But it’s all fun, and presented in fun, and cultural consciousness can fill in the glossed-over gaps.
And you don’t really want this show to focus on the gaps. Not when you can have a Harry/Voldemort showdown set to an iconic song of survival, or watch re-enactments of minor battles, like Harry vs That Dragon From Book Four.
There are rewarding nods to the greater Harry Potter universe, too: a throwaway visual gag starring Rowling’s pseudonymous novel Casual Vacancy; a shout-out to A Very Potter Musical and Darren Criss; mention of Emma Watson’s UN address on feminism; and references to the films and virtual Potter portal Pottermore.
The game of Quidditch is a highlight, turning the audience in the stalls into players of the game and those in the dress into a cheering squad. The Seekers are children plucked from the audience, and their sweet-natured hesitation to tackle the “snitch” to the ground results in a moment of spontaneous comedy in a show designed to feel, rather than actually be, spontaneous, and the audience laughter flows freer.
“That was like a Benny Hill sketch,” the duo remark, and they’re right, and the audience members old enough to understand the reference laugh. The younger ones laugh because they’re happy. It’s a pretty good deal.
A family show that’s great for kids, Potted Potter understands it can tour with bare bones – thoughtful but minor props, fun set pieces, and a few theatrical smoke and mirrorballs – and still weave a web that keeps the attention of the audience. It all comes down to personality, and Stratton and Percy, professional screwballs, have that in spades.