Sprint through ‘Potter’ books

Fans of popular young wizard and the uninitiated can enjoy two-man British parody

Staff writerNovember 1, 2013 

If you love the “Harry Potter” series, you’ve probably always secretly wanted to chat with the characters and play a jolly good game of quidditch.

If you’ve never read it, you’ve probably wanted to have a good laugh at all those hysterical fans. Luckily for Tacoma, there’s plenty of both in “Potted Potter,” a touring two-man comedy playing through Sunday in the Rialto. It’s a zany tour-de-force that’s hilarious no matter how familiar you are with Hogwarts.

The silliness starts with the actors: Delme Thomas, the genial audience hand-shaker who’s never read the books and isn’t afraid to laugh at them, and James Percy, swotting it out with a paperback onstage. As Thomas unveils his supremely lame sets (including a wardrobe, because “How else are you going to get to Narnia?”) and enthusiastically tattoos “HARRY” on Percy’s forehead instead of a lightning scar, it’s obvious what a clever tactic this is to rope in reluctant audience members who are equally clueless. Percy meanwhile epitomizes the fanatical zeal of the true Potter fan. To make it even funnier, the whole thing’s set in Warthogs – this is the unofficial version, so nobody’s allowed to use the H-word.

But that’s just the beginning.

As the two actors take us through all seven books in 70 minutes, the humor ranges from English pantomime (think fake beards and silly wigs) to witty spoofs to literal slapstick.

“Potted Potter” began in 2005 when writers Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner were hired to entertain lines of fans waiting at a midnight book release, and though it’s gone on to fame in Edinburgh, Scotland; London; New York; Melbourne, Australia; and more, it still has plenty of street-show smarts.

Through Books 1 and 2, Percy progresses from ignorance (“Dumbledore. Is he important?”) to mischief, whipping out a Nimbus 2000 vacuum cleaner and egging the audience on to what has to be the best quidditch game the Rialto has ever seen. The game involves a large bouncy ball, an unbelievably adorable Gryffindor Seeker from the audience and a rather human-looking Snitch.

We move on through Book 3, a wickedly funny PowerPoint animation summing up J.K. Rowling’s character ambiguity. Book 4 involves a tiny dragon and a Voldemort-style magic show. Book 5 features Thomas doing the classic character run-around, furiously donning hats to portrays Harry, Voldemort, Hermione, Sirius Black, a Shrek-accented Hagrid and all of the Weasleys in quick succession. Book 6 is flying eyeballs, squirty streamers and some more witty finger-pointing at the books’ essential flaw, which is that Harry is not, actually, very interesting.

Just when you think you can’t possibly laugh any more comes the pice de résistance: Book 7, sung as a Voldemort-led version of “I Will Survive” complete with disco ball, sparkly pink wand and hilariously campy dance moves. The only complaint is that the music often covered up Thomas’ Welsh-accented words.

The best part? This is humor any age will love, with topical and double-entendre jokes for the grown-ups and chocolate-snot jokes for the kids. (And don’t forget the costume contest at the end.) It’s like the Reduced Shakespeare Company with the naughty bits taken out; “A Tuna Christmas” set in a magical, familiar world. For Potter fans and scoffers alike, “Potted Potter” is the perfect thing for these excellent, but extremely long books. And silly enough to make even Professor McGonagall crack a smile.

Potted Potter

Who: James Percy and Delme Thomas

When: 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 pm. Friday; 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday

Where: Rialto Theater, 310 S. Ninth St., Tacoma

Tickets: $38/$48/$59

Information: 253-591-5894, broadwaycenter.org

Rosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568 rosemary.ponnekanti@ thenewstribune.com

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