Potted Potter -- Bringing The Harry Potter Universe to Niagara Falls

Potted Potter -- Bringing The Harry Potter Universe to Niagara Falls

By David DeRocco                            dave@gobeweekly.com  https://twitter.com/?lang=en 

If you’re someone who has spent a great deal of your lone time immersed in the books and films of J.K. Rowling, then get out your wand and your Gryffindor scarf and get ready to be transported into a magical world of wizardry. Playing to sold out houses all over the world, the Olivier Award nominated POTTED POTTER – The Unauthorized Harry Experience – A Parody is coming to Niagara Falls for a run of shows at the Avalon Ballroom.

Written and performed by BBC actors Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner, the show takes on the ultimate challenge of condensing all seven Harry Potter books (and a real life game of Quidditch) into seventy hilarious minutes. Along the way it reflects and lampoons not only the book and the entire Harry Potter universe, but it also weaves in threads of current pop culture to make it a thoroughly relevant and outrageous 70 minutes of fun.

Even if you don’t know the difference between a horcrux and a Hufflepuff, POTTED POTTER will make you roar with laughter. Lead actor Daniel Clarkson (who portrays 360 characters!) took time to chat with GoBeWeekly.com about the production and the enduring legacy of the world’s most accomplished wizard.

GoBe: It’s said follow a career path doing something you enjoy and it won’t feel like work. Are you working, or are you having fun when on stage performing Potted Potter

Daniel: It’s having fun. You can’t say spending your career running around the world dressed like your favourite wizards from Hogwarts is like work. It’s a joy. I think Jeff and I say that someone’s going to realize it’s just two best friends messing around and immigration is going to kick us out. It really is a dream come true that started from nothing. We’re having a ball with it.

GoBe: I’m a 63-year-old man and I’ve read all the books, seen all the movies, and continue to watch them. Can you tell me why? Why is the Harry Potter story so compelling to all ages?

Daniel: For the books themselves, I’ve never seen anything like it. It was like Beatlemania for books. I don’t know we’re ever going to see that again, people cueing up at midnight waiting to get their hands on these books. It really is such a simple story of good versus evil and the underdog coming good. I think for myself, as a British person, it was really our first British hero. I’ve grown up in a world where you watch Star Wars and everyone on the Death Star has a British accent. The Brits were always the bad guys, and then all of a sudden here was our very first British hero apart from James Bond. It was really good to get behind that.

GoBe: So you are fans of the series, not just comedic opportuinities who say an outlet for parody.

Daniel: It’s definitely for comedic opportunity but I was a huge fan. I got into it when the first book came out and my younger brother who is now 30 was just six or seven. I had just finished drama school and to practice site reading I’d read him bedtime stories. My mom said he was reading a book about wizards, and I remember when I first started to read it to him he’d fall asleep and I’d carry on reading. I think there’s still massive chapters he’s never heard before. Every time he woke up I was three chapters ahead. I was hooked from the start. I told my niece recently that she’ll never understand having to wait two years for the next installment to come out.

Gobe: What I appreciate about the production is that it’s a physical immersion in the story. I brought my daughters down to Universal Studios Harry Potter world and I think it was the best week of my life. It was magical to immerse yourself in the Potter world.

Daniel: Absolutely. I was lucky enough when we did the show in Florida  to go to Universal Studios Harry Potter world and it felt like you were there. I remember walking down Hogsmeade and I thought, you’re never going to get closer than this. You see the castle at the end, it was unbelievable. It’s so nice to bring this to life. With the parody, it has to come from a place of love and we both love the subject matter so much. While we poke fun at it,  it’s done in a loving way.  There was a Harry Potter website that said we tell the jokes the fans would make. And I think that’s important to make it in this loving way. With Jeff playing Harry Potter and me playing 360 other characters I get to do something no other actor has done. I get to be Snape, Ron Weasley, He Who Shall Not Be Named, I get to be Hermoine Granger. As a middle-aged man who’s six-foot-four, it’s quite a transformation.

GoBe: How long did it take to write the script that would eventually become this travelling stage sensation

Daniel: Originally, we did it as a launch for the sixth book. We did a recap of the first books for the cues at midnight. They’d be in the cue and we would do the performance and they’d get to the front of the line to get their books. And then we decided to expand the idea. There was so much to work with and so many ideas, but then it really came down to Harry and, I’ll say it, Voldemort. I really felt sorry for Voldemort. Here’s the most powerful wizard of all time, and he keeps on being beaten by an 11-year-old schoolboy. That’s not good for your ego.

GoBe: Which books proved the most challenging to work into the script; some of the latter books were darker than that first few but all had elements that were ripe for parody.

Daniel: My favourite book is The Order of the Phoenix for that very reason. It does become darker. I think that might have been because I was someone in my late 20s reading what started off as a kid’s book. Suddenly this took a new edge to it. But for us the hardest one was the fourth book, because we had to do the whole Goblet of Fire trials. Suddenly you’re having to create how he goes through the maze, how he fights the dragon, how he goes into the lake. We do have a fire-breathing dragon in the show that I think will put Game of Thrones to shame. The other challenge we had was obviously we had to do Quidditch. You can’t do a Harry Potter show and not have a game of Quidditch. We do think we’re the only show where you can come to a theatre and play a live game of Quidditch on stage. It’s my favourite part of the show.

GoBe: What characters are the most fun to lampoon in your portrayals?

Daniel: I do really enjoy playing Voldemort. I really play him like the classic villain, almost like a 1920s villain with the twirly moustache. He gets bigger and bigger, and his ego gets hurt more and more. Ron Weasley is always fun, because we do him as a kind of Ginger Ninja. And Dobbie the House Elf also makes an appearance.

GoBe: We know Harry Potter fans are like Swifties – passionate and protective. Have you met with much criticism from the Potter fans?

Daniel: It’s all been really joyous and lovely. Being a fan myself I’m very protective. I think when fans can see one of their own,  they can see this is coming from a place of love. We do meet amazing fans. It’s great to share this love all over the world.

GoBe: With the expansion of the Potter franchise are there plans to incorporate the movies released after the originals.

Daniel: We give them all a nod. I think this show started off about the seven books, and we remain loyal to that. But we do give a nod to the new movies, Universal Studios, The Cursed Child that’s touring at the moment. That helps us too. The more that comes out the more we change the show and keep it fresh. We’re going on now 16 years. When we first started, I think Ron was doing a version of Rhianna’s “Umbrella.” If I came out and did that now everyone would just look at me blankly. Even Taylor Swift makes an appearance in the show.

GoBe: How has creating this production changed your lives?

Daniel. So much. It sort of paved way for me to do writing of other shows and also paved the way for me to see the world. We started off doing the U.K., then we did the west end, then we went to New York. We’ve done all the states, we went to Toronto. I love Canada more and more. Then we went to Australia and Asia.

GoBe: What would your advice be to fans coming to the show. How should they come prepared for this performance

Daniel: I say, this is the time to really let your hair down. Be the wizard you want to be, let that inner wizard out. Come in and celebrate. Be ready to play a live game of Quidditch. Be ready to see the stories in a way you probably hadn’t thought of before. Also, if you haven’t read the books, don’t worry.  We’ll fill you in on everything. We also make a lot of reference to other pop culture. Come and see what all the fuss is about. We like to think there’s something for everyone.

GoBe: Final question, who are your favourite and least favourite characters. I know for myself I hate Professor Umbridge. I can’t even look at the actress who portrayed her so well.

Daniel: I remember reading about Umbridge in the books and it made we wince when she took that quill to Harry's arm. That got dark quickly. My favourite character is Colin Creevy, not around for along time. He’s the one who follows Harry Potter around in the book. I really think she included him just to be cannon fodder, which is why I’m trying to raise his awareness. His only job in life was to be Harry’s friend and die.


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