Potted Potter is a hilarious re-telling of all seven Harry Potter books

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Potted Potter | December 13 – 24, 2016 | Vogue Theatre 

This show is a classic comedic duet. James Percy, the straight man, is trying to summarize all seven Harry Potter books for the audience as best he can, while Joe Maudsley, his less competent partner, makes things difficult for him at every opportunity.   

It all starts with Joe unveiling the set pieces he’s created, all with some significant imperfections. The Forbidden Forest set is a sunny beach scene, and there is a wardrobe that leads to Narnia. It doesn’t help that Joe admits he hasn’t actually read any of the books, and he blew their budget on a special dragon for book four.

At first, this show felt like a fancied-up improv sketch with silly mishaps and little substance as opposed to a night at the theatre with a lofty ticket price. Sure, there were lots of laughs and the actors are very skilled, but it wasn’t until the audience was throwing an inflated planet earth from one side of the theatre to the other, trying to get it through makeshift quidditch hoops that I saw the true appeal of this show: audience involvement.

Joe went around the theatre introducing himself before the show got started, and we were in an ongoing dialogue with him and James throughout, shouting approval, booing, and offering opinions and advice. Aside from Joe’s well-intentioned misinterpretation of the Harry Potter story and multitude of characters, the interaction with the audience is what makes this show so engaging and entertaining.

There was thankfully only one Trump reference — he was compared to he-who-shall-not-be-named, and when the crowd offered sporadic laughter, James said “that used to be a joke” which was met with appreciative laughs. Some of the best moments were unscripted, such as their accidental use of “Sorcerer’s Stone” instead of “Philosopher’s Stone.” James took the opportunity to make fun of Americans not knowing what a philosopher is, which the crowd loved.

Back to that quidditch game, a highlight of the evening. The inflated planet earth was the quaffle, and the theatre was divided down the centre into teams of Gryffindor and Slytherin. The goal was to get the glorified beach ball into a “hoop” on the wall fashioned out of strings of lights. The ball never really came close to hitting the target, but the best part of the game was the two kids who volunteered to be seekers. Up on stage, they kept an eye out for the tiny golden snitch. It turned out that in this version of the game James was the snitch, dressed in a golden hooped jumpsuit and wearing a hard hat. Once he came on stage the kids were told to chase him down and catch him in order to win a prize, and that is guaranteed entertainment.        

With all seven Harry Potter books condensed into approximately 75 minutes, there is very little in the way of actually plot from the books included here, but that’s not really what it ends up being about. As these two bumble their way through trying to tell the story, it is about their hilarious (mis)interpretations and re-enactments of the major plot points. One of the best misinterpretations from Joe was his answer to getting Dumbledore’s phoenix for the show. Instead of getting Fawkes the phoenix, he flew to Phoenix, Arizona to get a fork. The finale was another highlight; they sang a duet as Voldemort and Harry Potter to the tune of “I Will Survive.”  

If you’re looking for a serious summary, interpretation, or analysis of the Harry Potter series, you won’t find it here, but if you are a Potter fan who also likes a good laugh, corny jokes, and a classic British slapstick comedy duo, then you will love Potted Potter.   

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