Review: Potted Potter at the Seymour Centre

April 19, 2024

APRIL 18, 2024

Seymour Centre, Sydney

Review by Paul Neeson (Arts Wednesday)

Potted Potter is ostensibly a show for kids, but don’t be fooled, this adult, with all the others, found himself laughing and intrigued from beginning to end – my inner child enthralled by the magic of the two man parody of the JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books – all seven of them.

Jacob Jackson (Harry Potter) and Brendan Murphy (everyone else) had the mostly school aged audience in their grip from  the outset. These two seasoned performers are the current cast from this touring juggernaut that has been playing in theatres and festivals around the world for 18 years now. From its humble beginnings, creators of the show Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner, were hired to keep the queueing devotees entertained during the book 6 launch. Since then the show has evolved to include book 7, and now even has a residency in Las Vegas.

Brendan Murphy is a consummate entertainer, using his skill to portray the other 360 characters in 70 minutes (that works out to 12 seconds per character) using his whole body and a handful of at times questionable, but nonetheless hilariously believable props, wigs and vocal parody to suspend our belief if only for moments. But that was all part of the joke. It was unashamedly Potter on a shoestring budget. Instead of hiring the best twenty British actors – though it is hard to imagine anyone doing it better – the bulk of the budget was spent on the amazing fire-breathing dragon from Book 4 – well sort of. The suspense was built over the first thirty minutes to reveal TADA!! …a hand puppet that was defeated by Jackson (standing in for Scott Hoatson) deftly snatching it from Murphy’s hand and throwing it into the wings.

The sets (Simon Scullion) were fabulously tongue in cheek, but again that was part of the joke. There was a tantalising promise of more to be revealed later, with several large drapes at the rear of the stage in suspended animation, the anticipation to see what was behind them lasted right to the end only to find they still remained in place even beyond the all-singing finale. But aren’t wizards’ grand old houses set in the dark forests full of cobwebs, draped furniture and strange noises that go bump in the night? Our imaginations happily filled the gaps. The only exception was the wardrobe (Narnia references abounded) that turned into a screen with clever video inserts (Tom Hillenbrand). There were constant deliberate confusions with the Narnia and Lord of the Rings books which has become an integral part of genre cross-referencing in popular culture.

The production’s ability to ad-lib and localise the script was superb, at times even self-referencing “well that joke works better in England”, and of course the timely substitution of Peter Dutton for Lord Voldemort. How on earth did they know that reference? 

But the children in the crowd were into the show 110%. They were squealing and laughing with delight and vying to be selected for the onstage game of Quidditch. One small girl whose team lost the game was given the option of a Harry Potter chocolate frog or having her team – in the audience – squirted with a water gun. She bravely chose the latter to save her team being soaked. (maybe she just didn’t like chocolate) In the end it didn’t matter, everyone in the front five rows got a drenching anyway.

Potted Potter is irreverent, it’s hilarious and it’s brilliantly pitched to every demographic. The energy is relentless and infectious, and even though I still don’t know the difference between a Horcrux and a Hufflepuff it didn’t diminish my total enjoyment and immersion in a hilarious 70 minute parody of one the of the greatest series of children’s books ever.

Listen to a recent interview with Brendan Murphy and Scott Hoatson here

Sydney season runs to 21 April

Then tours to Melbourne 24 April – 5 May

Adelaide 10-12 May

and Perth 23-26 May.

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