Ten points for Potted Potter production
Imagine seeing the entire saga of Harry Potter in a hilarious, 70-minute performance with only two actors. It sounds impossible without Hermione’s Time-Turner. However, the muggle production Potted Potter — The Unauthorized Harry Experience — A Parody by Dan and Jeff, which played at Pittsburgh’s Byham Theater from last Wednesday to Sunday, did just that.
Writers Daniel Clarkson and Jeff Turner originally came up with the idea for the show in 2005 when they were asked to create a performance to entertain the crowds of eager fans awaiting the midnight release of the sixth book in the series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Clarkson and Turner’s show related the first five books in five minutes. A year later, the show grew to an hour in length, and eventually included all seven books in the performance henceforth known as Potted Potter.
Delme Thomas, who plays every character in the show except for Harry (and even puts on the glasses occasionally), said the show has been an unexpected turn for him. After his agent found the audition, he said, “I auditioned for the piece and I actually didn’t think I was going to get it.”
Thomas has been a Harry Potter fan since he picked up the first book shortly after the first two had been released. “It was the only book in the shop that looked fairly interesting and I got hooked on it from that,” he said. Now not only an avid fan and a Hufflepuff according to Pottermore.com’s official test, Thomas shifts roles from Hermione Granger to Professor Snape to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.
“It’s always fun to play the baddies,” Thomas said. “The goodies are rubbish.” He has been playing both types of roles in eight weekly shows every week since March when he started the tour in London.
“The good thing about the show,” Thomas said, “is it’s a comedy improv show, so you take what you get and roll with it.” According to him, 70 percent of the show is scripted. Thomas and his counterpart, James Percy (who plays Harry for the majority of the show), improvise the other 30 percent.
The two make an excellent pair onstage. Thomas’s contagious enthusiasm and physical humor are balanced out by Percy’s dry wit and adherence to the story line. Percy moves the story along while Thomas keeps the audience engaged, constantly eliciting applause, cheers, chants, and jeers throughout the show.
The improvised parts were easy to identify as unscripted because they occasionally even sent the actors into fits of laughter. “We usually try to make each other laugh as much as possible,” Thomas said. “We’re very professional. It’s the classic two-man comedy.”
Thomas said the most fun part of the show for him was when he engaged the audience in a game of Quidditch. “It’s my moment where I really interact with the audience,” he said.
This version of Quidditch requires less flying on brooms and avoiding bludgers, however, and more bouncing a beach ball between audience members and trying to get it through a lit up hoop while two children (volunteers from the audience) chase the “golden snitch” (Percy in a ridiculous costume) around the stage. It was quite a sight to see grown adults laughing, cheering, and chanting “Gryffindor” or “Slytherin” while whacking a beach ball across an auditorium.
Overall, Potted Potter was a magical experience that muggles, squibs, wizards, witches, members of the Order, and Death Eaters alike could enjoy together. For more information, visit www.pottedpotter.com.