Don’t know the difference between a Gryffindor and a Slytherin? Haven’t a clue what the heck a horcrux is? Not to worry. By the end of POTTED POTTER – The Unauthorized Harry Experience – A Parody by Dan and Jeff, a 70-minute tutorial through the entirety of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, both rabid fans and newcomers will be schooled appropriately by Olivier-nominated show creators and stars Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner.
The jovial, enthusiastic pair, who have worked together as hosts on CBBC, the children’s station for the British Broadcasting Corporation, have returned to the Little Shubert Theater, where Potted enjoyed a successful New York run last summer. Chelsea Clinton News said that in adapting Rowling’s seven novels about the young wizard’s Hogwarts experience as he fights against He Who Must Not Be Named, “Clarkson and Turner earn our laughs and trust over the course of the show with winning ‘I’ll do anything’ attitudes that make them look enthused but not desperate.”
Potted follows the model of The Reduced Shakespeare Company’s acclaimed The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged), condensing events in a frenetic, partially improvised manner (Richard Hurst directs). “About 50 minutes of the show are locked,” according to Turner, “leaving 20-25 minutes to mess around. Dan will do something different, and then I know how to bring it back.” But the Potter series involves more than five thousand pages of text and at least two dozen integral characters. How did Clarkson and Turner consolidate the action into a saga that can be endured without even an intermission?
“We started out by asking who the five most important characters were,” Turner explained. “They’ve got to be in it. ‘What’s the most important thing that happens to each of them?’ That’s got to be in it. Harry Potter fans are a unique breed – people get upset that Bellatrix isn’t there, Professor Umbridge people are upset we couldn’t put her in, people get upset that Luna Lovegood isn’t here –“
“I was upset about that too!” exclaimed Turner, who declares that the only reason Mr. Weasley made it into Potted is because it’s his favorite character from the series. “I love the fact that he seems fascinated by things in our own world and thinks that they are magic,” he said.
“It’s all about Harry and Voldemort and their battle throughout,” Clarkson continued. “They’re the constant characters. Then we put in bits of subplot here and there, saying ‘This would be funny, Dobby’s funny!”
Clarkson’s favorite element of the series directly corresponds to its main hero and villain. “I love the first time Harry and Voldemort have that confrontation in the graveyard [in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire],” he said. “For us it was fun to take something that dark and represent it in a fun way. That’s where the magic-off came from,” referring to a key moment in Potted.
“We made Voldemort a figure of fun. He’s a crap end-of-the-pier magician, a figure to be laughed at,” Turner added, or, as Clarkson joined in, “Vaudeville Voldemort!”
Clarkson, the oldest of four children, first encountered the series when he would from it to his younger brother at night in the voices of different characters. “There are still chapters he’s never heard because he would fall asleep and I would keep reading,” the performer said. “And I realized that these are good books. When we got this job, I realized I could be at the front of the queue to get the next ones as they came out!” While Rowling herself has yet to see Potted, members of her team have seen it and reportedly enjoyed it.
Both have their theories, too, as to why the Potter series became the phenomenon we know it to be. “It’s that great story of good versus evil,” Clarkson said. “It’s incredibly British, which has a draw over here, because there aren’t many British heroes here, and it’s also about a kid who gets to escape a dreadful childhood into this fantastical world,” Turner said.
“This show will outlive us as Harry Potter will outlive us,” Clarkson said.
For more information about Potted Potter, go to www.pottedpotter.com
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