Potted Potter, The Unauthorized Harry Experience has won awards and been a hit in New York and the West End. Writers Dan (Daniel Clakson) and Jeff (Jefferson Turner) offer a version of all seven Harry Potter books in around 70 minutes. They seem to have the magic combination: don’t worry too much about details and take the level of silly up higher than a flying Anglia. Judging from the laughter on the opening night, most people were charmed by the spell.
Gary Trainor, introduced as Britain’s foremost Harry Potter expert, has big plans for this ambitious show like a company of top actors and lavish sets. Much to Gary’s annoyance, his performing partner Jesse Briton has his own vision of what fans of the boy wizard want. Most critically, Jesse thinks that just the two of them can do all of the roles, leaving more money for other parts of the show. But then, he also thinks the series has Hobbits, wardrobes and turkish delight.
Fortunately, the audience don’t need to hit the books as hard as Hermione Grainger to enjoy the show. If you at least know what Hogwarts is – even if you can’t name all four houses – and the main characters of the 360-odd, you’ll still have quite a good idea of what’s going on. I’m not giving away anything that isn’t on the show’s promotional material to say that some important features of the books are here, after a fashion, and that there is a quiddich game and some supernatural creatures. But beware, if you’re behind on your reading or viewing then there will be spoilers!
The writing and direction (Richard Hurst with associate Hanna Barrigan) have carefully made this an affectionate parody of the Harry Potter series. While there are some jibes at the films or plot developments, there is an appropriately solemn moment around the passing of a character giving a brief pause as the performance builds to manic costume changes. At times it is impossible to resist the goofy way in which complex themes and relationships are condensed to fit the speedy scenes, like the on-going question over the loyalties of teacher Severus Snape becoming “I’m evil. Or am I?”
Gary and Jesse vary their method of delivery so the show doesn’t get stale, and, if anything, it was milked for too long it was because the audience kept laughing.
Byplay between characters, especially the differences in storytelling between serious Gary and frivolously improvising Jeff, and its resulting jealousy, adds appeal in the vein of Lano and Woodley, without the innuendo. Potted Potter is absolutely family friendly exuberant entertainment, right down to the kids puzzles in the programme. If your kids are fans don’t let them miss out on the short Melbourne season lest they be miserable as Moaning Myrtle.