To think this little gem started off as a five-minute street show intended to keep queues of Potter fans entertained while waiting for the sixth book instalment. And now, seven years on, extended to 70 minutes, following Olivier nominations, stints at Edinburgh Fringe and touring the States it makes a welcomed, but brief, return to London during the Easter break.
The show is essentially a madcapped condensed journey through all seven Harry Potter books delivered by comedy duo Dan and Jeff; Jeff, the sensible one immortalising Harry, with an uncanny if slightly more mature resemblance to Radcliffe and Dan, the comedic loose canon, taking on the rest, well sort of. If you’re a purist and expecting it to follow JK Rowling’s series to the letter, then you’re clearly in the wrong place as you needn’t be potty about Potter to enjoy this; even the vaguest knowledge will suffice here.
Though, I imagine, mostly scripted, the performances have a spontaneous improvisational feel to them, with both actors clearly celebrating all things related to the boy wizard, while also, at times gentle mocking them. For instance, there are the inevitable faux pas and comparisons with Middle Earth and Narnia as well as reducing the final instalment, The Deathly Hallows, to simply ‘half about camping and half about deaths’, while questioning the need to split it into two films.
Genius moments include a Magic Off between Harry and he-whose-name-shall-not-be-mentioned, culminating in a resilient duet of I Will Survive, with Voldemort (oops) finally admitting defeat singing ‘No…I won’t survive….’ (insert sad face). And the pièce de résistance, ‘Quidditich!!’ which Dan excitingly shrieks throughout, unable to contain his excitement, nor ours. Given that this part includes audience participation, it promises to be the highlight of the show while naturally generating more off-the-cuff material from the actors. Tears of laughter literally streamed down my face at this point, as a clearly possessed child took to the stage and threatened to upstage everyone on it whilst also rendering Dan and Jeff scared shitless!
Although in its seventh year, I am under the impression that the show hasn’t changed too much at its core, albeit the attempts to be ‘down with the kids’ with nods to Facebook, Twitter, smartphones, Glee and Twilight. Additionally the odd socio-political reference is included to keep adults engaged. But it’s not all wink-wink, nudge- nudge stuff; adults are equally invited to laugh at the silly bits too and so they should! So hats off to Matilda for making it acceptable to enjoy kiddies’ theatre. This is definitely an Easter treat for muggles of all ages!
Potted Potter runs until Sunday 21 April at:
2 Charing Cross Road
For more information and tickets visit www.nimaxtheatres.com
Image: Colin Hattersley