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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Theatre review: Potted Potter is a high-energy romp

Harry Potter parody's low-tech approach is a big part of its charm

As we are reminded often in Potted Potter, there is no CGI. In fact, this Harry Potter parody, currently playing Vancouver’s Vogue Theatre, is so low-tech it becomes part of its charm. It is also one of the show’s running jokes, helping to ensure those of us with only a passing knowledge of the J.K. Rowling juggernaut are also entertained.

It has been nearly twenty years since the first Harry Potter book hit shelves, and nearly ten since the final installment sold 11 million copies in the first 24 hours of its release. But interest in the boy wizard, and his various offshoots, does not appear to have waned much over those years.

Of course, the recent publication of the script for the stage play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and the current release of the prequel Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, have helped keep the franchise flourishing.

Not that Rowling needs much help in keeping her Harry Potter world alive though based on the audience opening night. With the 13 year-old boys and girls who first bought into Rowling’s universe now in their thirties, Potted Potter benefits from the nostalgia of the original fans wanting to share their love for the books with their children. And audiences are apparently willing to pay good money to relive their youth, with top tickets selling at nearly one hundred dollars for this seventy minute show.

At prices reaching those of the mega-musical variety, some Potterheads may be anticipating a few dazzling special effects, lavish costumes, or wondrous sets that usually accompany those rates. If you’re expecting paintings come to life or real flying dragons, you will be disappointed.

What you get in their place is something that is at times even better: the sheer joy in watching James Percy and Joe Maudsley on stage.

No theatrical tricks here. Just a high-energy romp that sees these two obvious Potter fans condense, mock, and ultimately pay honour to Rowling’s seven books in just seventy minutes, stretched to nearly 100 opening night due to a late start (note to Vogue Theatre: don’t advertise doors at 7:00pm if you’re not going to open them until 7:45pm, especially on cold nights).

With some wigs, hats, props, and a few small set pieces one assumes the duo buys off Craigslist at each tour stop, Percy and Maudsley take on the 3,407 pages that make up the series of books (or the 1,180 minutes of the combined movies).

Allowing for just ten minutes per book, there is little time for more than a cursory look at each. Considering the two find time for other antics, including a real-life game of quidditch with audience participation, it is little wonder they are sweating by the end.

Save a couple short bits, including a very funny Golden Snitch, Percy plays Harry exclusively. He becomes the perfect straight man to Maudsley, who gets to play every other character.

Ron and Hermione, of course. Snape, Draco Malfoy, Mad-Eye Moody, Sirius Black and Professor Dumbledore all make appearances. There is one particularly amusing scene as Maudsley runs behind the wardrobe to emerge as another character. It doesn’t take a genius to know where it is headed, but thanks to Maudsley’s lovable delivery, it is still very funny.

There is a connection between the two actors that comes across as genuine, no doubt built on their time before joining Potted Potter at theatre school and as a comedy duo in their own right. The moments in which they break down laughing feel genuine and spontaneous. Most importantly you can tell the two are still having a great deal of fun. Just like their audience.

Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Potter Experience by Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner. Directed by Richard Hurst. A Corey Ross/Starvox Entertainment and James Seabright/Potted Productions presentation. On stage at the Vogue Theatre until December 24. Visit for tickets and information.

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