Luckily (?) we weren’t the only ones running behind schedule. The previous showing of Potted Potter had been interrupted by a fire alarm, during which the entire theater had to be evacuated, and when we arrived about ten minutes after our show’s starting time the previous performance was still running. (It was a brutal night for the actors!) So we crammed into the lobby of the Marine’s Memorial Theatre like sardines in a can, waiting and waiting until we could go to our seats. I think that by the time we were seated, our show was at least half an hour late, maybe more. But hey, at least Jeannie, Seanie and I didn’t have to miss anything!
A Parody by Dan and Jeff
Marine’s Memorial Theatre, San Francisco
What is Potted Potter? The premise is simple: all seven of the Harry Potter books condensed into a single, 70 minute performance. Two blokes, James and Del, put together the show – James is the expert on all things Potter, while Del is in charge of putting together the actual production. Unfortunately, Del’s also a bit of a doof, and as a result there are no actors and minimal sets, costumes and props. But the show must go on! Two men, 360 characters, and 70 minutes. GO!
Much of the show is based on improvisation, since these guys are trying to convey an epic story with magic and dragons and flying broomsticks and all they have is a couple of wigs, a wardrobe, a toy train, and a bookshelf with the seven volumes of Harry Potter to read from. So, whichever actor happens to be wearing the pair of black plastic round glasses is Harry, and the one wearing the red devil horns is Voldermort. Ron is an orange fright wig, Hermione is a Pollyanna straw hat with blonde braids, and Snape walks about with a giant frown and his arms flapping behind him like the folds of his robe.
This show has got to be one of the funniest things I’ve seen all year. I was in stitches the entire time. Obviously, you have to be pretty familiar with the Harry Potter series to follow along, but let’s face it – who would go to a show called “Potted Potter” if you weren’t already a fan? The audience is promised the Hogwarts Express, a great fire-breathing dragon, and a Quidditch match – and all of these things are in fact delivered, after a fashion.
The Quidditch match was incredibly silly, but so much fun. Two kids, a boy and a girl, were called up from the audience to participate as players, and the boy was thrilled. I’d guess he was around eight or nine? He took his job as seeker so seriously. When the Golden Snitch (one of the actors in a giant yellow costume) came on stage, the kid took a running leap and tackled him with all his force, winning the game for his team and causing both actors to nearly collapse with giggles.
In format, this is rather similar to the shows put together by the Reduced Shakespeare Company – in fact, when I first heard about it I thought perhaps this was a RSC production. It’s hilarious and ridiculous, becoming ever wilder and out of control the deeper into the series they go. (Not unlike the books themselves!) And, unlike the books on which it is based, Potted Potter understands that sometimes less is more, and the brief show leaves you wanting more of Dan and Jeff’s nonsensical humor.