Potty about Potter

13 February 2013

It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a Harry Potter fan(atic). So when I saw that a parody show called Potted Potter was playing at Pieter Toerien’s Theatre on the Bay in January, my heart started beating very fast. Anything Harry Potter related is guaranteed to grab my attention.

A closer look revealed that the show had played to full houses in West End, Broadway and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Naturally I had to see it.

Of course, I failed to factor in that January is traditionally a very long, dry month, and thanks to pre and post Christmas overindulgence, I was left with nothing but a wallet full of crumpled up receipts. I forgot all about Potted Potter entirely.

But then a few weeks into January one of my Twitter friends posted about how awesome the show was. I asked if it was really worth going and received a flood of very emphatic YESSES from several people. So we pulled out the old credit card and bought tickets, and I’m so glad I did.

Potted Potter is a two-man parody show that aims to condense all seven Harry Potter books in the space of seventy minutes. The show is hosted by Gary Trainer, the ‘world’s foremost Harry Potter expert” and his buddy Jesse, who hasn’t read the books and who doesn’t have much experience in putting together a sophisticated theatrical production.

Imagine Gary’s dismay when he walks on stage to find that the incredible Forbidden Forest background he requested turns out to be nothing more than a bit of cardboard with a palm tree painted on it, and the giant animatronic dragon he ordered is a stuffed toy. This is not a big budget production, but it doesn’t matter – half the fun is watching Gary and Jesse argue it out.

Gary does a great job condensing the series. With some help from Jesse and some interesting props, the two impersonate major characters and act out key scenes. Epic dueling scenes are masterfully recreated with seemingly unchoreographed dance battles. And to save time Gary even uses a Powerpoint presentation to summarize book three.

It’s laugh out loud funny. Many of the best moments arise from Jesse not having read the books, like his treatment of Hermione, who for reasons only known to him, has a deep baritone voice. He’s also responsible for the cupboard in the middle of the stage “for the characters to get in and out of Narnia.” There is singing and dancing and even an interactive Quidditch match that the audience can participate in.

My Twitter friend warned me not to sit in the balcony, and I soon found out why. Those at the bottom had the most fun trying to get the quaffle (beach ball) into the hoops. Those at the top were divided into Gryffindor and Slytherin and tasked to cheer on their respective team. I almost choked with laughter when Jesse painstakingly explained the rules of the game, followed by the revelation that it was all irrelevant anyway because the game ends when the Seeker catches the Snitch.

I thoroughly enjoyed the show. I was happy to see that the majority of the audience was my age. I left feeling vindicated. If two men could base an entire show around their love for Harry Potter then it was perfectly all right for me to feel as strongly as I do about the series. I even came across a term online that classes hard core fans of the series as the Potterari.

If you think about it, the term fits.

During a trip to the UK last year my partner and I bought tickets for the Harry Potter Studio Tour at Levesden which completely exceeded my expectations. Most of the sets from the film are open to the public. There is so much detail in the Great Hall alone that you miss on screen. Any Harry Potter fan worth their salt should go.

But it’s not just the movie props and jaw-droppingly awesome sets that makes the trip worthwhile – it’s also the staff. While we were waiting in the queue, one of the ushers was entertaining some children in the line by doing coin tricks – making a coin disappear, then pulling it out from behind a child’s ear. I noticed that when another female staff member was checking tickets she had the Deathly Hallows symbol tattooed on her wrist. These weren’t kids. These were adults who had found a place where their love of the children’s series was a necessary requirement for the job. For me, it was paradise.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with loving a book so much that it becomes part of your life. It’s what all writers dream of.

In the case of Harry Potter, it wasn’t so much the books as it was the experience. Once in a while someone online will say “remember that time we all queued at midnight to get a copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.” I remember. I was there.

I remember when JK Rowling took the guys behind The Harry Potter Lexicon to court and fans had to choose a side – the author of their favourite books, or the devoted fans that dared to want to publish a comprehensive Harry Potter encyclopedia? I was there when all the Harry Potter fan sites started revealing the first images of the feature film, and starting swopping opinions about the young Daniel Radcliffe. There was fan art, fan fiction, endless pleas to those that had stayed up all night to read the latest book to not reveal any spoilers.

I was part of a global collective of fans holding their breath for any whisper of the new book, swopping theories, taking bets and letting the sense of expectation carry you away with it.

So yes, I’m a member of the Potterati and proudly so. Are you?

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