September 6, 2013
The fandom borne from the Harry Potter books and films has become a thing of literary legend. From the beginning, J.K. Rowling’s literary wizard world has inspired creativity in almost all corners of the artistic world:
Movie series production designer Stuart Craig, book cover artists Mary Grandpre and Kazu Kibuishi? Check. Harry Potter Puppet Pals? Check. Starkid? A Very Harry Potter Musical? Double check. Wizard wrockers Harry and the Potters, the Whomping Willows, Ministry of Magic, and scores of other bands that write songs relating to the series?…check.
This fandom continues to be alive, loyal, inventive, and some might say, obsessive, about all things Harry Potter. Cinema Siren owed it to these fans to see if the new stage show, currently in D.C. through Sept. 15 at the Shakespeare Theatre Company, at Sidney Harman Hall, is worth seeing.
Potted Potter, which is described as a live two-man parody featuring all seven Harry Potter books, is the creation of Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner (or Dan and Jeff, who are known for their children’s programming at the BBC) and began as a five-minute street skit commissioned to entertain those in line awaiting the midnight release of book 6, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.
The spirit of that origin has been kept and added to through the release of the seventh book. The production has grown to more than 70 minutes, and been transferred and staged on theaters worldwide. It has now reached stateside and is looking to cast a spell over audiences all over the United States.
Fans will flock to this show just through a sense of continued loyalty, but does it measure up to other famed HP creations? The experience of watching Potted Potter is very much reminiscent of street performance in Covent Garden. If you’ve been curious about street improv in London and want to experience it without spending the cost of an airplane ticket, here is your chance. You can find out by going to your local theater to see Potted Potter. This is both its blessing and curse.
This 70 minutes that use what I’d call a “loose tether” to the stories written by Rowling, is not what I’d call smart. It is broad and it is silly, with connections to the series only serving as a jumping off point for laughs, without using it in the deep way that can make the best comedy improv so transcendent and memorable.
It is missing the sharp wit or layered meaning devotees of the Harry Potter series have seen in the diverse fan-created fine and performance art online. As silly as Wizard Wrock, fan fiction and Harry Potter musicals may seem, Potterheads in attendance will believe better wit and satire can be found there. If you don’t believe me, find out for yourself.
A Google trip to the best artistry the Harry Potter fandom has to offer is just a few keystrokes away. To those who would argue that parody has no nuance, I would suggest a trip to the library is in order. Some research or a good librarian might mean you’ll be in for a delightful literary surprise.
On the other hand, the casual or even enthusiastic readers of the series and those who have made reading Harry Potter part of their family tradition will enjoy Potted Potter very much. Consideration of material best suited for those with a short attention span and jokes younger audiences will appreciate are woven together with a skill that clearly shows programming and presenting to kids is nothing new to these two performers.
They drew frequent uproarious laughter from the kids surrounding me in the audience. At the curtain call, the families in attendance applauded with enthusiasm, making me believe Potted Potter might be a perfect introduction for budding theatre-goers in your family.
The beauty of live theatre, and art of all kinds, is there’s something for everyone. Families can enjoy Potted Potter. Potterheads deeply rooted in the fandom should crack open some Butterbeer and watch A Very Harry Potter Musical online again instead.
For local and nationwide touring info, go to: http://www.pottedpotter.com/tour-dates
The Shakespeare Theatre Company has several plays full of wit in the offing this season, not least of which is Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. For a complete list of the 2013-2014 season, go to: (http://www.shakespearetheatre.org)