WHETHER YOU are an avid fan of Harry Potter or simply of inspired comic lunacy, the smash hit show Potted Potter, which is coming to the Town Hall Theatre, is guaranteed to provide a wonderful and uproarious night out.
This show has grown from a five-minute piece of street theatre into an international touring sensation which has been performed across Britain, as well as going to the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, and now comes to Ireland for the first time.
Potted Potter brilliantly condenses all seven Harry Potter books into 70 hilarious minutes and also features a real-life game of Quidditch! Even if you do not know the difference between a horcrux and a Hufflepuff, Potted Potter will have audiences both young and old roaring with laughter. To quote from The Guardian’s review, the show is; “Blissfully funny, a winner in every way.”
From street to stage
Potted Potter was devised and first performed by comedians Daniel Clarkson and Jeff Turner. In 2005, they were asked to create a five-minute street show recapping the plot of the first five Potter books, to perform for queues of fans waiting for the midnight release of the sixth book, Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince.
The following year they expanded this sketch into an hour-long stage show parodying the series and further refined the show in 2007 to incorporate Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows into the show mere days after its release.
This touring production features the performing duo James Percy and Benjamin Stratton. Ahead of their Galway visit, James took time to answer a few questions about what it’s like being part of Potted Potter’s marvellous merriment and mayhem.
“I’ve been doing the show for about a year now,” he begins. “Dan and Jeff were looking for two actors to join them for Potted Potter’s New York City engagement. So, I auditioned in front of Dan and Jeff, clearly they thought I was as strange as them, because they brought me on board.
“After New York, we toured all over America, which was just great. We have so much fun with this show, and it really is all down to the audiences. It’s a very interactive show and there’s a real closeness with the audience that means you never quite know what’s going to happen next. I play the role of Harry, and Ben - my partner in crime - has the job of playing every other character. You should see his Hermione, she’s beautiful!”
Born and raised in Doncaster, James did a law degree at Liverpool University before training classically at the Birmingham School of Acting. Since graduating from Birmingham in 2008 he has worked extensively as an actor and comedian, his credits taking in everything from Shakespeare, Wilde, musicals like Hairspray, and improv comedy.
Regarding Potted Potter, I ask him was he a fan of the books prior to doing the show?
“I very much grew up on the books!” he replies. “I’m about the same age as Daniel Radcliffe so if my mum had been a bit more pushy, and I’d been a bit less annoying I could have been Harry Potter in the films perhaps. But now is where I get my revenge...Who’s Harry Potter now, Radcliffe? This guy right here!”
Potter virgins and Pott heads
Yet what about people (and they do exist ) who have never read a word of any of the Potter books or seen any of the movies? Would Potted Potter appeal as much to ‘Potter virgins’ as to Pott heads?
“One of the real cornerstones of this show, was that it should be something everyone can enjoy,” Percy declares. “We want it to be something that the whole family can come along to together, whether you're a complete Potterhead or you haven't read a single page! A lot of the comedy really comes from watching these two guys struggle through this seemingly impossible task in only 70 minutes. As long as you know Harry Potter was a boy wizard, you’ll be fine - we’ll soon fill you in on the rest. That’s the plan anyway...”
In a similar vein, given that the books were initially written with children in mind, do audiences for Potted Potter span a wide age range?
“Yes, which is great!” James enthuses. “We get everyone from the very, very, young who are just being introduced to Harry, to the much, much, older! At the heart of it, this show is really a classic comedy double act which takes a lot of inspiration from the likes of Laurel & Hardy or Morecambe & Wise. So, it’s something that everybody can get on board with and enjoy, no matter how old you are.”
Reviews of the show have observed that it is partly a wicked send-up of the Potter books and partly a fond homage. How would James Percy describe it?
“First and foremost, all the comedy definitely comes from a place of love,” he observes. “We’re never just mocking the books - because we’re fans! It’s really a homage to the Potter world with perhaps a wicked look at what might happen if you misunderstood certain things...”
Given that the show has had such huge success internationally, has JK Rowling herself or Daniel Radcliffe have ever gone to see it?
“There's been a few of the movie cast come to see the show over the years, including, most recently, Warwick Davis [who played Filius Flitwick and Griphook in the films], who really enjoyed it,” James replies.
“Apparently, a few years ago Potted Potter was performing a sold out show, when a lady came to the box office and tried to buy a ticket. The box office girl said it was sold out, and sent the lady away. It was then that the theatre manager walked by and said to the girl at the box office, ‘Wow, wasn't that JK Rowling?!’ The poor girl was inconsolable! Whoops! But now, wherever we play in the world, we always save a seat for JK, should she try again!”
Potted Potter runs at the Town Hall Theatre from Tuesday April 29 to Sunday May 4. From Tuesday to Saturday, the performances are at 7pm with an extra matinee performance on Saturday at 3pm. There are two performances on Sunday, at 12 noon and 3pm.
Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie