Seven Harry Potter books in 70 hilarious minutes, Potted Potter is on stage at Toronto’s Panasonic Theatre
Well, honestly, it doesn’t. Not exactly, at least. If you’re looking for an in depth analysis of J.K. Rowling’s famous series about the Boy Who Lived, Potted Potter isn’t going to give it to you. On the other hand, if you’re looking for an evening of sheer family friendly fun with Harry Potter trappings, you’re in for a real treat. Originally from the Edinburgh Fringe festival in Scotland, written and performed by Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner, the production has come to Toronto with a new cast and all of the energy that earned it an Olivier award in 2012.
For those who don’t know (Hi there! Was it cozy under that rock?), the Harry Potter series is about a boy, coincidentally named Harry Potter, who discovers that he is a wizard and (because it’s a British story) must therefore go to a boarding school to learn how to use magic. Whilst there he find himself embroiled in the decades-long struggle between good wizards and witches and the evil Lord Voldemort. Think Star Wars except everyone’s got a wand instead of a lightsaber.
Okay, got it? Good, because that’s probably more than you’ll need to enjoy Potted Potter. The truth is that Harry Potter is pretty incidental to the show; it’s simply a framing device to give actors Benjamin Stratton and James Percy an excuse to bicker and abuse each other in what felt like a cross between Mitchell and Webb and Flight of the Conchords. That’s not to say Harry Potter was completely ignored; just as the advertising promises they indeed perform each book over the 70 minutes although they mainly touch on the major plot points and ignore many minor characters and subplots, choosing to use the extra time to play a game of Quidditch with the audience and showcase the amazing fire breathing googly-eyed dragon from Book 4.
J.K. Rowling’s books aren’t the only thing getting referenced however, as Star Wars, Twilight, the works of Tolkien and even Watership Down are ripe for humour, the latter sadly being a joke that of the nearly full theatre I was the only person to actually laugh at, a fact the actors were happy to point out. This leads to probably the best part of this production, the audience participation. Both Stratton and Percy are clearly skilled improvisers and were able to shift from scripted material to off the cuff humour without missing a beat to the point where even now I’m not sure if the whole thing was scripted or improvised. Nevertheless the ease they had in playing with the audience and making us all feel like part of the show gave the whole production a sense of joy that I hadn’t felt in a professional theatre setting in quite some time.
That being said, I did feel that the most scripted segments of the show, namely the beginning and ending, paled in comparison to the rest, respectively feeling like an overenthusiastic school assembly and a climax that never quite lived up to the hype (much like my opinion of the final Potter book, coincidentally).
Nevertheless, this minor quibble aside Potted Potter is a fantastic bit of theatre that was enjoyable for both my cynical adult self as well as the enthusiastic kids who made up at least a third of the audience. Whether you’re a fan of J.K. Rowling’s work or a complete newbie to the series, you’re sure to have a fine time.
- Potted Potter is playing at the Panasonic Theatre (651 Yonge St.)
- Performances run until January 11, 2015
- Check the website for a complete list of performances and showtimes
- Tickets range from $39.95 to $99.95
- Tickets can be purchased by phone at 1-800-461.3333 or online
Photo ofcourtesy of Starvox Entertainment