Potted Potter: Casting a Spell on the Audience

There are many great works of literary fiction which will never be surpassed. Harry Potter is one of those. The books are so popular and incredibly accessible that the release of each new tome caused crowds which put the lines at the Apple store to shame. They have spawned countless blockbuster movies, parody novels, fanfiction, theme park attractions and more. But there is one thing that the franchise is missing . . . a stage show. Enter Potted Potter!

James and Bern (1)

Far from the traditional theatrical experience, Potted Potter is more reminiscent of British pantomime. The show is based around two guys who attempt to portray all seven books (and three hundred characters) on stage in seventy minutes. Without the help from elaborate set budgets or twenty West End-quality actors, the story falls on audience participation, improvisation and quite a bit of slapstick comedy to create this hilarious experience.

Potted Potter’s two actors, Ben Stratton and James Percy, play the double-act phenomenally, skilfully balancing their roles as actors and crowd mediators. Each has a dramatically different role to play, James as the hard-core Harry Potter purist and Ben as the mischievous performer, but they are able to easily endear themselves with the audience as they perform their well-timed antics involving chocolate cake, magic tricks, silly string, an impressive video presentation and a number of puppets.

However, it is the interactivity between the actors and the audience which really makes this show stand out. If there ever was a fourth wall, it was removed well before the audience entered the theatre. From the very beginning there is the expectation that the audience will join in whether the task involves cheering, nominating Seekers to catch the Golden Snitch or repeating prophecies. And this provides a rather different experience from many of the other shows that arrive in Melbourne.

It makes the audience the centre of attention.

This shift of attention occurs right from the beginning. Before the lights dimmed and the reminder announcement about prohibited recording began, Ben was already out in the audience introducing himself to everyone and shaking each person’s hand. This relationship between actor and audience continued throughout the performance.

Remarks throughout the show are directed at specific audience members, shouts echo from the audience as they try to throw the actors off their game and there is the opportunity to actively get involved – as last night’s audience found out when an octogenarian got out of his seat and almost kicked the winning goal in the Quidditch match with suprising aim and power.

No longer is the show confined to the stage. In fact, the size of the cast grew exponentially as audience members began to become memorable additions to the show despite rarely leaving their seats. While this style of interactive theatre is often reserved for children’s shows, Potted Potter shows it is about time it’s used for shows with a wider audience because it means that the audience get to craft their own experience and every show is unique!

The advertising isn’t lying when it says Potted Potter is suitable for ages six to Dumbledore (who is very old indeed). The show holds great appeal to everyone from families right through to the theatre goers closest to Dumbledore’s age. And it is due to the great interactive nature of the performance which involved everyone from young children to (arguably) the oldest person in the theatre in the ensuing hilarity.

Potted Potter is only playing until November 2. If you are a Harry Potter fan or just enjoy the occasional game of Quidditch, grab your ticket at www.artscentremelbourne.com.au and head along to the Playhouse.