Potted Potter – The Unauthorized Harry Experience – A Parody

Potted Potter AFC 2024Adelaide Festival Centre. Dunstan Playhouse. 10 May 2024


It’s a bit of a jolt when you realise that the first Harry Potter book was released 27 years ago. It seems just yesterday the first wide-eyed millennials lined up outside bookstores for the second book as Harry and Hermione fever swept the world. With the final instalment released in 2007, the alpha generation has also embraced the wizardly adventure series, although for many of them, the films have been their primary source. Nonetheless, Book Week Hermiones and Harrys still far outweigh other characters during the costume parade, and the musical ran for four years in Melbourne, a fair indication of the enduring popularity of JK Rowling’s septology.


Created by British actors Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner, Potted Potter has been running for almost as long, with the first production being a five-minute street show performed to the aforementioned fans waiting in line for the 2005 midnight release of Book Six, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It was quickly developed into an hour-long show, and the seventh book added on its release in 2007. With various actors stepping in, the two-hander has toured the world for almost two decades and is now doing an Australasian return run.


The actors in this production are Scott Hoatson and Brendan Murphy, as Harry Potter and ‘everyone else’ respectively. In a tightly scripted 70 minutes, Director Richard Hurst takes the actors through their paces, encapsulating the story lines of all seven books using a variety of media.


Hoatson is the Harry fan, and insists on playing the character, believing that Brendan has assembled a cast of the best West End actors to accompany him. Hmm, whoopsie. Having failed to secure anyone (as a budget measure) Murphy must take on the other 350 characters. This makes for some hilarious situations, particularly in terms of fast changes.


If Potter heads are looking to follow the plot of each book in any comprehensible order, forget it. While the books are referenced and each plot line explained, it’s so brief and so loose as to be just recognisable. Fortunately, that doesn’t matter; they’re almost just a hook on which to hang some outrageous comedy and quick improv thinking. With lightning-fast scripting between the two as they argue about production values, the ‘play within a play’ has much to offer beyond the actual Potter storyline.


The use of video (Tom Hillenbrand) to explain Book Three is genius, and the audience participation in the quidditch match beautifully broke up the unrelenting concentration on the rapid-fire stage action.


There’s a lot of referencing of other books, films, and shows – and maybe it’s time for an update to a more current zeitgeist, as some of it was going over the heads of younger audience members. While Shrek, Frozen, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, Lord of the Rings and Mary Poppins made it in safely, Tina Turner for example, did not. And while I can’t think of another character to channel while wearing a fuzzy red wig, breaking into Tomorrow from Annie drew a lot of blank looks from my alphas (memo to self – check DVD shelf to see if copy of 1982 film is still extant).


The show closes with Book Seven …The Deathly Hallows, abridged to the tune of Gloria Gaynor’s now iconic I Will Survive. The audience loved it, clapping along with Harry and Voldemort until the end.


A lingering thought is that Potted Potter is more suited to being a Fringe show rather than a full theatre stage production, as it was in its early iterations. Still, a highly entertaining 75 minutes.


Arna Eyers-White


When: 10 to 12 May

Where: Dunstan Playhouse

Bookings: Closed