Published on October 30th, 2013 | by Patricia Sully0
Potted Potter: a magically manic delight
Can I confess something to you, dear readers?
I’ve read the Harry Potter books.
Okay, I’ve read the Harry Potter books more than once.
I’ve read the Harry Potter books an unreasonable amount of times.
I’m kind of a huge fan. Nope. I am not “kind of” a huge fan. I am, in fact, just a huge freaking fan.
And all I really want in the world is for there to be another book.
But there won’t be.
Which is why I am so damn jammed about the fact that Broadway Center is presenting Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Potter Experience at the Rialto Theater in Tacoma.
I caught the opening show last night and couldn’t be happier about it. Billed as “the unauthorized Harry experience,” this parody takes all seven books — roughly 4,000 pages — romps its way through at warp speed, complete with a real game of Quiddich. Well, let’s say a “real” game of Quiddich.
The brainchild of Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner, otherwise known simply as “Dan and Jeff”, Potted Potter started out as a street sketch parodying the the first five books and performed prior to the release of book six to entertain waiting fans. Now incorporating all seven books, the show has toured the U.K. and embarked on its first world tour in 2012.
In Tacoma, it is being performed by James Percy and Delme Thomas, with James playing the Harry Potter expert and exasperated straight man to Delme’s goofily incompetent sidekick.
Premised on the idea that the two were meant to produce a full show about the books, it kicks off straight away with James flailing about as Delme reveals that instead of hiring actors or building a set, he has spent all of the money on a dragon. Oh, and he also never got around to reading the books.
Ultimately, with its minimalist set and two-man schtick, it feels like a very elaborate camp skit, with James and Delme acting as the counselors you always wish you had.
They race through the books, with James playing Harry and Delme playing everyone else, while tripping over each other, the text, and pretty much anything else you can imagine. James and Delme adeptly roll with the punches, even when things go a little bit sideways. And that is part of what makes it so gloriously funny: one can never quite be sure which gags were always up hiding up their magical sleeves and which were pure happy accident.
The pair’s enjoyment of their impossible task is evident and they embrace the part scripted, part improv, and heavily Monty Python-esque style of the show with enthusiasm.
James in particular seemed to have trouble not occasionally breaking character; Delme’s antics occasionally got him laughing right along with the audience and I can’t blame him – Delme perfectly performed his role with the earnest energy of a puppy. Both were a joy to watch.
The show is advertised as appropriate for ages “6 to Dumbledore” and it is exactly that. The audience was a refreshing mix of young and old, made up of everything from raucous 6-year olds decked out in their Gryffindor finest to attractive 20-somethings bearing wands, with a handful of older couples and middle aged ladies complete with witches hats thrown in to boot.
Audience participation is a part of the act and, for me, was one of the highlights of the evening. From the older gentleman who gave the most enthusiastic and deafening yell I’ve ever heard to the two mismatched kids (a well-dressed teen teetering in her heels and a cheery 7-year-old in a Hogwarts robe) pulled from the audience to be “seekers” in a game of Quiddich, this is not a show you passively consume. The audience is included but with a balance I can appreciate – not so much that it felt like work but not so little that the energy of the act itself became grating or tiresome to simply watch.
Kids will love the frantic pace – even if they only understand 50% of what is said – and the occasionally cheap but no less funny gags while adults will appreciate the homage to Wayne’s World in the transition between books, the wink and nod style of the performers, keeping you in on the joke, and the gymnastic skill at which the performers respond to the unexpected.
If you are a fan of jokes, this show is for you, whether you have read the books a dozen times or not at all. Come prepared to let down your guard and be silly.
The show will be playing at the Rialto Theater in Tacoma through November 3rd, including a show on Halloween. Tickets start at $38.00 and are on sale now. To purchase tickets, call the Broadway Center Box Office at 253.591.5894, toll-free 1.800.291.7593, visit in person at 901 Broadway in Tacoma’s Theater District or online at www.BroadwayCenter.org.