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Review: 'Potted Potter' parody casts a hilarious spell

'Potted Potter' is a deftly rendered, two-man parody that even non-Harry Potter fans can get into.

Potted Potter

You don’t have to be an avid "Harry Potter" fan to get one hell of a kick out of “Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience," but it helps. You do, however, have to be a fan of unmistakable British wit, wry humor, irreverence and snappy improv — all of which this parody has in spades.

“Potted Potter” is a no-frills show, one that feels a bit like you’ve been invited to come watch two of your goofiest buddies rehearse their dubious new, homemade play in their basement. And that’s the best part about it.

The parody is written by and stars just two men — Daniel Clarkson and Jeff Turner — who attempt to condense the intricate plots of all seven “Harry Potter” books into a mere 70 minute-long performance. And watching them try is a trip.

Turner plays the put-upon straight man to Clarkson’s irresponsible, irrepressably kinetic class clown. It’s a testament to Turner, who clearly has his own set of finely tuned comedic sensibilities, that he lets Clarkson steal every scene. But it’s clear that the scenes are Clarkson's to steal, as Turner leaves them cleverly unguarded, too busy being befuddled and harried, and worrying about whether the two are paying accurate homage to his favorite fictional books, to bother much with playing the leading man.

That job is left entirely up to Clarkson, whose gangly form takes on the personas of just about every character but Harry (Turner plays the Boy Who Lived) just by throwing on a various array of hats and wigs, and affecting new voices and gaits. (His best is undoubtedly his Ron Weasley, who he plays as a cockney punk who ends every statement with “innit?” a la Ali G.)

It’s the aforementioned moments of improv that make this parody the engrossing and continuously entertaining bit of comedy genius that, it must be said, it is. The roughly one hour-and-change long play is marked by frequent audience engagement — a mid-show game of Quidditch played with a large beach ball and two audience members selected to come onstage and play the Seekers is a high point — and both men, though especially Clarkson, are well-equipped to spike back any comedy barb an audience member cares to lob at them.

At one point during the play’s opening night performance, the lights came up after a moment of “magic”-rendered darkness to find Clarkson with a Boston Cream Pie smeared all over his face. Turner is clearly as surprised by this bit of improvisation as the audience and can’t hide his surprise — or genuine laughter. “I suppose I could have found a less messy way to express some regional pride,” Clarkson said ruefully, wiping chocolate out of his eyes, while Turner giggled helplessly.

It’s the moments of pure, unscripted comedy that elevate “Potted Potter” from clever parody to an uproariously funny and immersive theater experience, and one worth seeing at any age.

If you go

Through Oct. 6
Paramount Center
559 Washington St., Boston
$40-$80, 617-824-8000
paramountboston.org

 
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