Toronto is about to experience Harry Potter madness as Potted Potter makes the journey from the West End to our city later this week. The show is the brainchild of Daniel Clarkson and Jeff Turner - who together have combined all seven Harry Potter books into a seventy minute parody that is guaranteed to please even the most skeptical of Potter fans.
Potted Potter features all 365 characters that appear throughout the popular books and even includes a live game of Quidditch involving the audience. It premiered in 2006 in the UK, and Dan and Jeff have their sights set on an international tour after their Toronto engagement. The Guardian called the show “Inventive, daft fun for all the family. A winner in every way.”
While the Harry Potter franchise is beloved across the world, this journalist has yet to read the books or fall in the love with the boy wizard. It’s because of my Potter ignorance that I jumped at the chance to speak with Dan and Jeff before they boarded a plane to Toronto. I wanted to know exactly what the hype was about, and more importantly, could a non-Potter fan truly enjoy the show? What ensued was a hilarious conversation with both men about the show, romance, Quidditch and The Toronto Maple Leafs:
First off, congratulations on bringing Potted Potter to Toronto! Is this your first time in the city?
Yes! We’re very excited, we’ve been looking at pictures online and getting ready. We’ve even got snow boots! We just got hit with unexpected snow in England, we think it was to prepare us to come to Toronto.
So why Toronto and why now?
After the West End we think Toronto is the next logical step. You guys seem to be a hub of comedy and since we’ve never experienced it before we are looking forward to it.
When Potted Potter was on the West End at Christmas a Canadian producer came over to see it and met with us about why he wanted to bring it to Toronto. It just seemed like a great fit. Plus we hear that you guys have something called bear claws…
Have you tweaked the show at all for a Canadian audience?
There are a few changes actually. For example, we had to figure out what a good hair removal leg wax was called in Canada. The show mostly remains the same, Harry Potter is Harry Potter regardless of where you go, the show and the characters are loved the same way all around the world. It’s more the small references that we’ve had to change so we’ve done our research. Learning some Canadian terms!
Do you think this show can appeal to people who know nothing about Harry Potter or who aren’t fans of the franchise?
Jeff: Absolutely! When Dan found me on the streets doing my little one man show and told me he had this idea of doing Potted Potter, I had never read a Harry Potter book. So when we first started writing the show I started reading all the books. In a way I think the show is a nice mix of entry level and expert Harry Potter information because of that. So anyone can come along and see it, we do all seven books in seventy minutes so it’s a great way to learn the story! Perhaps for someone who has been excluded at the water cooler during Harry Potter conversations.
You could call it a crash course in Harry Potter!
Very much so. The great part of it is that if you do know the books then you can pick up on all the little references that we make, but if you don’t know them you will still enjoy it. It’s a wonderful opportunity for both Potter and non-Potter fans to come and enjoy it together. Adults or children, it is a family show but grown-ups love it too. You get to play Quidditch and we don’t care if you’ve read the books or not, that’s a fun time!
So you actually have the audience playing Quidditch during the show?
Yep! We have what we think is the first ever live, interactive, on-stage game of Quidditch in the history of theatre. It gets very passionate too. We’ve got seekers and beaters and balls flying all around.
Do you have the entire audience participate?
As many people as we can physically get to join in on the game get to play. Plus with the balls flying everywhere you pretty much have an opportunity no matter what.
Have you ever had any problems with people who perhaps aren’t fans of participatory theatre? Anyone get freaked out and want to leave?