‘Potted Potter’ at the Garrick Theatre

If I tell you that. although I did read the first two Harry Potter books, I stopped when I saw how fat volume three was, and have subsequently fallen asleep near the beginning of at least two of the films (possibly three, as I’m not sure if one was a repeat), then you’d be reasonable in assuming that I’m not really the target audience for Potted Potter.

You’re right, but I know a girl who is.

Which is why we were at the Garrick Theatre just after four on a Wednesday afternoon, along with hundreds of small children and their accompanying adults, and more curiously, and perhaps a little disturbingly, some adults who had come without an accompanying child.

The show is a two handed romp through all seven books of the Harry Potter series, although if, like me, you’re broadly ignorant of the plots, you’ll emerge none the wiser.  Instead, the books are used as a wonky framework for some comedic silliness, dressing up in cheap wigs and slapstick humour for the children and the childlike, with some clever back-chat, cinematic and literary references for the adults, and audience participation for everyone.

I am generally immune to comedy; that slick ‘look how funny I am, I’ve analysed it, deconstructed  and rehearsed this to within an inch of its life and it’s therefore funny so you’d better laugh’ stuff, does nothing for me other than irritate.  And there are some aspects of that in this show, when Dan and Jeff, the performers, look like nothing so much as over eager puppies bouncing around on the stage.

But what I did like was their willingness to take the risk that their gags involving audience participation wouldn’t go exactly as they had planned; that they were confident and sharp witted enough to deal with whatever happened and make it funny.  It was those unscripted moments which were genuinely amusing.

In a game of Quidditch, involving a couple of cardboard hoops lowered from the Circle balcony, a Globe beachball, two volunteers from the audience, and Jeff dressed in shiny nylon yellow as the snitch, there is quite a lot of risk, but during the performance I saw, a great comedy payoff.  Seeing Jeff flattened by a proper rugby tackle around the knees by a little girl in glasses was funny for its spontaneity and surprise, as well as for the subsequent improvisation and ad libbing that came from it.

The Garrick is also currently home of  ‘Rock of Ages‘, with evening performances and matinees on Thursday and Saturday, and Potted Potter fits in a couple of early afternoon shows most other days.  It made me wonder why more West End theatres don’t open up in the day time, in holiday periods to put on small shows?  The packed house for Potted Potter demonstrates that the right show can draw the crowds, which must generate a reasonable contribution to the fixed costs of maintaining the venue……

It’s fun and I left the theatre smiling.  Give it a go (but take a kid along or risk looking a bit odd….)

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