Potted Potter, The Unauthorized Harry Experience, A Parody by Dan and Jeff (Athenaeum Theatre) – theatre review

Whether or not you are a Harry Potter fan, it would be hard to be unimpressed or unamused by this delightfully ditzy offering. In short, Potted Potter condenses all seven Harry Potter books and a game of Quidditch into 70 hilarious minutes. Taking us on the wild ride are the talented and engaging Scott Hoatson and Brendan Murphy, who bounce off each other beautifully. Theirs is a delightful family show that all generations can and do enjoy.

Hoatson is deliberately painted as the Potter expert and Murphy the buffoon. Hoatson had wanted Murphy to engage a 20-strong acting troupe and a litany of impressive props, but he quickly realises all hope is lost. That is evident when much to Hoatson’s chagrin, Murphy uncovers cartoon-like, inappropriate props. The latter also waxes lyrical about a fire breathing dragon he has secured for Book 4. Thereafter, the pair launches into a hilarious rendition of the story.

Hoatson plays Harry and with a multitude of wigs, masks and costumes Murphy assumes all the other key characters. Think Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Albus Dumbledore and Lord Voldemort for starters … and many more. The more ridiculous the dress ups and funny voices the better, and ridiculous they most certainly are.

Amidst the hijinks, Murphy – who has been pushing for this all show – organises a game of Quidditch. The audience is metaphorically split into two, with one half Gryffindor and the other Slytherin. A couple of young volunteers make their way onto the stage and then the game begins, the high point of which is the appearance of the Golden Snitch.

Potted Potter involves physical comedy, easygoing banter between Hoatson and Murphy and animation. The show ends with a memorable rendition of Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, a reference to Harry Potter’s ability to navigate all sorts of scrapes, no doubt.

Potted Potter was the brainchild of Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner. They created it for an appearance at a London bookshop in 2005. It was then a five-minute entertainment offering for fans awaiting the release of the sixth book. It grew from there into a full-length stage production, which was first seen at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2006. The show has had multiple West End and Off-Broadway seasons.

It received an Olivier Award nomination as Best Entertainment and Family Show and is now in the fifth year of residency at a casino on the Las Vegas Strip. More than a million people worldwide have seen it and it is easy to understand why. The orchestrated mayhem and irreverence are a rolled gold hoot, which generates unbridled laughter aplenty. Couldn’t we do with more of that in these particular harsh and confronting times?

It is playing at Athenaeum Theatre until 5th May, 2024.

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