It’s simply magical when a family-friendly comedy show can make children and adults laugh wildly in their seats.
Throughout Potted Potter, J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world serves as the backdrop to two chuckle-inducing performers: Dan Clarkson (who doubles as the show’s co-creator and co-writer) and Scott Hoatson. We watch as they purposely scramble to condense the seven Harry Potter books while flailing around with props and costumes that could have been bought at a Dollar Tree. It’s a riot.
Clarkson and Hoatson pull off an entertaining double act comedy routine. Hoatson plays a Harry Potter purist who wants to portray the books with absolute accuracy, and Clarkson is the laid-back goober—a Potter casual who simply wants to have fun. Their relationship is akin to Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny, as are a handful of their bits. There’s, in fact, a moment that’s reminiscent of the “Duck Season/Rabbit Season” routine (it results in the appearance of the golden snitch).
Even though this run of Potted takes place at the glitzy Harman Center for the Arts, there’s a loveable ruggedness that emanates from Clarkson and Hoatson as they bounce around with cheap wigs and plastic wands, and that may stem from the show’s roots. In 2005, Clarkson and his co-writer, Jeff Turner, initially produced a street show that abridged the first five books in five minutes. Two years later, they stretched that show to an hour—consisting of the first six books—and then transformed it into the 70-minute production featuring all seven.
closes April 22, 2018
Details and tickets
The duo adds strong dashes of improv to their comedic potion, an ingredient that doesn’t always mix well with a show’s static writing. Productions that pair scripted lines with improvisation can fail to create sleek transitions: ad lib one-liners can sorely stick out among what’s obviously written and vice versa. But Clarkson’s and Hoatson’s transitions were so fluid that I couldn’t always point out what’s been improvised and what been written beforehand. I’m keen to see the show again, just to figure out which lines were thought up on the spot.
Pop culture nods, alas, are not so smooth. They’re jammed into the dialogue and stand out as weaker portions of a funny whole. I wondered if Clarkson conjured up hoards of references, scribbled them onto slips of paper, and pulled a few out of a hat thinking: “this should be enough filler.”
Stuffing aside, the most whimsical aspect of Potted is how much the performers are willing to laugh at themselves. When a joke doesn’t land, they call it out. When a flimsy prop breaks, they create a new joke. The two men are comfortable comedians on stage: unafraid of the unexpected.
Do you need to be a Harry Potter die-hard to enjoy this show? Absolutely not. Should you at least walk in with a general sense of the franchise and characters? It would be a boon to the experience. With a joyously interactive Quidditch section and jokes that are (mostly) geared toward witches and wizards from ages “six to Dumbledore,” Potted Potter is a spelltacular production.
Potted Potter by Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner. Directed and additional material by Richard Hurst. Featuring Daniel Clarkson, Scott Hoatson, Brendan Murphy (alternative performer), and James Percy (alternative performer). Lighting design: Tim Mascall. Set design: Simon Scullion. Music: Phill Innes. Production manager: Amy-Susie Bradford. Company stage manager: Jennifer Lee. UK General Management: Seabright Productions, Ltd. General management: Jessica Johnson for Starvox Entertainment. Presented by Shakespeare Theatre Company. Reviewed by Emily Priborkin.