In “Potted Potter,” no one is having more fun than the writers and performers. And why not? Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner have struck gold by parodying what is arguably the most renowned series ever written. They have a built-in audience that loves the concept of the show before the actors hit the stage. The audience and the actors know every intricacy of the Potter books, so every line has the essence of an insider’s joke.
The springboard for “Potted Potter, the Unauthorized Harry Experience,” was a five-minute street show Clarkson and Turner were commissioned to perform for fans waiting for the midnight release of the sixth Harry Potter book. The current rendition incorporates the storylines of all seven novels, a dozen or so characters, a puppet, some stuffed animals, and an array of frizzy clown wigs.
Perhaps they are following a strict script, but if so, their pretense of ad-lib is delightful. Turner plays the straight man who is a student of Potter. His goal is to present all of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books in 70 minutes. He’s serious about his charge. Clarkson’s job is to provide the props and special effects. Clarkson is a nut.
The material is amusing, but Clarkson’s enthusiasm is infectious. His schtick is that he hasn’t really read all the Potter books. And he hasn’t done that great of a job in the prop department either. But who cares? Clarkson skips about the stage, exhorting the audience to cheer, which they couldn’t be happier to do. He insists that we play Quidditch, which we do, much to Turner’s dismay. He then has great fun mocking how bad we are at Quidditch, which we are.
The actors demand enough audience participation to engage us, but not enough to make us uncomfortable. Clarkson refuses to succumb to Turner’s Debby Downer moments. He is up, he is happy; he demands that we love him. He will not be denied. And he is as tickled by the audience as we are by him.
Lighting design by Tim Mascall vacillates between blackouts, spotlights, and colored fog. The set is cheap and effective. The most useful piece is a Narnia-worthy wardrobe that opens into a screen. It is the backdrop for Turner’s surprisingly astute five-step analysis of Rowling’s plotting, as applied to Book Three, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.”
One of the show’s most satisfying things is its multiple references to children’s literature, and the audience’s positive response. It was a literate crowd. They chortled to allusions to Tolkien, “Annie,” “Twilight,” Shrek,” and “Mary Poppins.”
To bring in current events, the actors threw in a comparison of the dysfunctional Ministry of Magic (“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”) to our current governmental gridlock. Those cheeky Brits.
If you don’t know Albus Dumbledore from Severus Snape, or a Horcrux from a Deluminator, find someone who does, and buy a couple of tickets. These actors will demand that you have a good time.
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