Potted Potter - Canberra Theatre
Ten years after the climactic film Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, J. K. Rowling’s fantasy series about the adventures of a boy wizard is still part of the popular imagination. Rowling’s sparkling coinages like Quidditch and Azkaban and muggle and Hufflepuff are a secret language common to both the millennials who grew up alongside the characters, and to children discovering the vivid books for the first time. Ageing but still part of the zeitgeist, Harry Potter is ripe for affectionate parody.
Potted Potter - The Unauthorized Harry Experience parodies all seven Harry Potters books at lightning bolt pace, with just two actors dashing through thousands of pages with hundreds of characters in a little over seventy minutes, with only wigs, silly props, and an elaborate Dobby puppet to aid them.
Originally touring fifteen years ago with creators Daniel Clarkson and Jeff Turner, this retooling with Clarkson as director bequeaths the show to New Zealand actors Adam Brown and Tama Jarman, who infuse the slapstick antics with their Kiwi charm.
With Adam Brown as the pompous egomanaic and Tama Jarman as the irresponsible goofball, the pair bicker through the retelling, with Brown striving for gravitas but consistently undone by the feckless Jarman.
The performance is pitched broad for children, but the pair display extraordinary physicality, rapport and dexterity, which keeps the pace strong. Rather than settling for parodies of the iconic performances in the movies, such as Alan Rickman’s languid Snape or Michael Gambon’s fustian Dumbledore, they steer the characters in anarchic directions, such as a snotty French Snape, a Shrek-inspired Hagrid and a baritone Hermione. The mischievous unpredictability made it exciting to see how they would play each character, as the duo shamelessly ransacked the Rowling oeuvre for gags.
While children are the primary audience of show, there was enough charm and wit to draw older fans in, such as jokes about the surprising amount of camping in the final book, and a brutal rant about Harry Potter's shortcomings as a protagonist. The show also built anticipation well with sly teases, for example in the elaborate build-up around the dragon in Goblet of Fire. The song climax that ends the show also ensures the performance finishes on a high.
While audience interaction was not as bold as it could have been due to COVID restrictions, which even prevented the audience from cheering, the production did an excellent job of finding other ways to make the audience part of the show, such as the exciting audience-wide Quidditch match.
Potter Potter delighted the young Harry Potter fans in the audience, and kindled some of the magic for the oldies. Brown and Jarman put their unique stamp on the material, and deliver the show’s absurd promise with energy and panache.