Potted Potter lacks magic
The challenge Dan Clarkson and Jeff Turner construct for themselves is a tall one in Potted Potter. They set out to condense all seven books of J.K Rowling's wizarding epic into a 70 minute Harry Potter summation. The pitch alone is enough to entice fans of the series to watch it all go down, hence the almost sold out run.
In practice though, the resulting stage show doesn't live up to the pitch. Instead of a narrative that in any way resembles Harry's journey, we're a party to the banter of two comedians who muggle their way through each book. While the show benefits from the charm of these two performers, the script draws attention to the set they don't have, the characterization they have forgone, and the gaps they're happy to gloss over. Instead of relying heavily on imagination, the secret to Rowling's success and theatre's lifeblood, Potted Potter is a watered down wizard variety show.
Taking the challenge literally, Dan and Jeff start with the first book and work their way through the highs and lows of the seven book saga. Jeff, the duo's straight man, is billed as the resident Potter expert â he narrates the novels and portrays the title character. Dan, the comedic better half, relies on decidedly exaggerated characterizations to bring all of the other characters to life. Just when the pair finds some traction, Dan seems to derail the action with a spontaneous Quidditch match or a lacklustre prop.
If you arrive expecting an effort to condense the material and do some sort of justice to the story, you'll be sorely disappointed. The narrative flies so fast over each book that die-hard fans will surely hunger for more detail. The best parody balances a fine line between send up and acknowledging the quality of the source material. Here, the parody seems stuck on send up.
Only so much can be accomplished in 70 minutes, yes, but instead of rising to the challenge, the script relies on jokes and gags that appeal more to those under fourteen, and that most adults will find tedious. I'm talking silly string, chocolate frogs to the face, and a moment of audience participation with a giant golden snitch that's straight out of Nickelodeon.
There are a few redeeming moments that are cleverly constructed. Dan provides a powerpoint synopsis of the third book that exposes Rowling's formulaic structure. And the duel between Voldemort and Harry works well.
The two performers are undeniably talented. Dan is a strong comedic buffoon who injects the marathon with clever quips and well-timed physical comedy. We delight in watching him. At the same time, Jeff is a noble straight man. He's able to keep the show moving amidst incredible obstacles, all the while enduring Dan's abuse. The few bright spots in the text are a testament to their chemistry.
With no real set or costumes to up the ante, the performers charm only carries the piece so far before the repetitious structure and low-lobbed gags take their toll. It may be billed as a family show, but this one feels more for the kids.
Potted Potter, written and performed by Dan Clarkson and Jeff Turner, runs at the Panasonic Theatre until March 25.
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