Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Potted Potter: A Case of Emperor's New Clothes?

September 1, 2012

Even when I first saw the posters for "Potted Potter" who promised to deliver "all seven Harry Potter books in 70 hilarious minutes," I was sold since I read all the books and watched all the movies and lived J.K. Rowling's world.   I knew there would only be two actors, one will play Harry and the other will be playing all the other characters.  "Potted Potter" is an Olivier Award nominee created by two British guys Daniel Clarkson andJefferson Turner. It supposedly played to sold-out audiences the world over.

Despite the fact that the ticket prices were rather expensive for an unknown act (P3,000 Orchestra, P2,000 Loge and P1000 Balcony), I went ahead to purchase five tickets for my whole family.  This would only be in Manila for a week only 10 shows, oddly starting its short run on a Tuesday and ending on Sunday (last 2 shows today), I got tickets for the Saturday night show maybe in the first week they were out. With the effusive advertising blurbs I read pre-show, needless to say, I was stoked with anticipation.

The show started with the two actors introducing themselves and what they would be doing over the next 70 minutes.  The Manila show did not feature the original duo of Dan and Jeff, instead we got Gary Trainor and Jesse Briton.  Gary would be playing Harry, and Jesse would play the rest of the other characters.  Gary is the Harry Potter nerd, narrator and producer, and Jesse did not know a thing about any of the books and was (ir)responsible for the props. Gary had an Albert Brooks vibe to him, while Jesse was more the roguish Chris Rock type.

While everything started very energetically, it became plain to see (for me, at least) that this show was nothing like intelligent spoof that I expected.  Gary and especially Jesse really tried hard to wind up the audience with exhortations for applause, and the occasional Filipino references (Boracay, walis tingting, even Eraserheads!).  However, when they "finished" the first book in less than five minutes with a brick representing the Sorcerer's Stone, it dawned on me that this show would simply be a silly and juvenile one, with stupid little props. I had to temper down my expectations if I were to enjoy the rest of the show.  

The show only came alive for me in Book 4 when they engaged the audience in a "Quidditch match."  They divided the audience into Griffindor and Slytherin. The comedy actually came more from the reaction of the audience as Jesse threw the 'quaffle" among them to try to shoot into the hoops, and the two cute kids who volunteered as seekers as they clobbered the "golden Snitch."  For me, this was the only part that made the show laugh-out-loud funny.

The last three books were a blur.  They made a tiresome prolonged joke about Dumbledore's prophesy that between Harry and Voldemort, only one will live and the other will die.  It was good for extra snickers only when they got the audience interacting with them.  In the last book they broke into a song number, which was good to break the monotony of narration.   Then it ended already!  I just said to myself, that was it?

OK, I was disappointed in the show.  I may have had too high expectations about this production because of the hype.  They should have just said this is strictly for kids, and not really for "the whole family."  I felt this show was a case of the "emperor's new clothes."  There was really nothing in it.  The occasional improvisations by the actors were funnier than the actual scripted parts.  This was definitely no "Forbidden Broadway" which was one smart and sharply witty parody show.  For "Potted Potter," I was only mildly amused at parts as the comedy was more physical than really witty.  Mostly, "Potted Potter" is just childish empty foolishness.  I did not feel I got my money's worth.  My wife and eldest daughter share my opinion.  At least, my two younger boys seemed to have fun.


  1. My sis gave me a ticket as a Christmas present but since I read your review last year I recommended that my child watch it instead of me. Reading again your review, I bet there are lots of slap stick jokes which kids will like because they like stuff like that (Looney Tunes, Tom & Jerry, Spongebob, etc)

    I'll just listen to the stories when they get home. And you know what, the tickets are more expensive now. My sister bought the orchestra seats for P2000 a pop. Unbelievable.

    I am actually more excited for the Ibalong dance musical play I will be watching at CCP this Feb 9. The performance is under Tanghalang Pilipino. I saw the photos of the cast, make-up and costumes and it reminds me of Cirque du Soleil. I just hope its as fantastic (and maybe even more than that).

  2. heard about this play last year and it was quite interesting. i hope i could get to watch it this time