Review: For Potter fans, noobs and everyone in between

Posted at 08/31/12 2:32 PM

A scene from "Potted Potter." Photo: Handout

MANILA, Philippines -- It was a full house at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, where "Potted Potter" made its Manila debut on Thursday night.

Dubbed "The Unauthorized Harry Potter Experience," "Potted Potter" is a parody of the bestselling series by J.K. Rowling, taking on an impressive challenge: to pack all seven Harry Potter books in 70 minutes.

Created by Dan Clarkson and Jeff Turner, the Olivier Award nominated "Potted Potter" has played to sold-outhouses all over the world, including London, New York, Toronto, Edinburgh, Australia and New Zealand.

The two-man show of "Potted Potter" in Manila stars the touring cast, Gary Trainor and Jesse Briton, who keep the audience roaring with laughter as they make their way through the series. A show within a show, the two guys are putting up a theatre show about the Harry Potter series, with Trainor in charge of the content and Briton assigned to theprops and special effects. Mishaps abound, leading to the two meb playing all the parts themselves!

Trainor plays Harry Potter (most ofthe time), while Briton srambles to play whatever character the scene requires, involving breathless costume changes, accents and voice pitches, and even mannerisms. They go through the books in chronological order, acting out a hilarious condensation of the events in each book, breaking out of Potter character whenever they have to work out their differences.

Easily one of the highlights ofthe show, the two men lead the audience in a spirited game of (what else?) Quidditch,the official wizarding sport. The sporting event involves Seekers chosen fromthe crowd, grueling competition between two houses (ours was classic Gryffindorvs Slytherin), and an outrageously violent quest for the Golden Snitch.

The dialogue is peppered with jokes that go beyond the Potterverse, as Trainor and Briton draw on references to Broadwaymusicals (Briton breaking out into "Defying Gravity" from "Wicked"), film (Briton’s Hagridaccent sounding like "Shrek," a dig at the two-part "HP 7"), and other bestselling book series ("Narnia," "Lord of the Rings," "Twilight" and "Fifty Shades of Grey"). There is even a dash of local color, with Boracay making an appearance on set, and a candid reference to "The Phantom of the Opera" running on the other side of town. Each book is told in a different way, going from mere re-telling to an all-out variety show.

The spontaneity of the duo makes a delightful foil to the side-splitting dialogue. The two actors are prone to chortling upon successfully delivering an off-the-cuff joke, sometimes even reeling from the mirth, extending the humor for the audience. They are also quick to pick up on the audience’s response, making light of rare moments whenever a joke falls flat, and their self-deprecation rendering the audience in stitches.

As "purist" Trainor good-naturedly grumbles through the unorthodox spin their show is taking, and "noob" Briton discovers the magic of Harry Potter as they are putting on the show. "Potted Potter" effectively welcomes both types in the audience. Fans will relish the uproariously abbreviated canon and relive their favorite Potter moments, while those who have yet to read the books can count on the show’s promise of encapsulating the series in a little over an hour.

Totally unauthorized, outrageously funny, and altogether memorable, "Potted Potter" has the audience laughing long after the curtains fall.

"Potted Potter" runs until Sept. 2 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati City. The tour continues in Singapore, HongKong, Australia, New Zealand and Africa for the rest of 2012.

Blooey Singson is a long-time Harry Potter fan with a collection of over 100 Harry Potter books in different languages. She blogs about books at http://sumthinblue.com.