‘Potted Potter’ has fun with the famous boy wizard

Steven Sonoras
Special to The Detroit News

You don’t need Hermione Granger’s Time-Turner to experience the whole Harry Potter series in under two hours.

“Potted Potter,” created by British comedians Daniel Clarkston and Jefferson Turner, condenses the entire seven book franchise into one hilarious 70-minute play. The two-man show recaps the series with Monty Python-esque humor and audience interaction to create an experience the whole family — wizards and muggles alike — can enjoy.

James Culver and Joseph Maudsley will take Clarkston and Turner’s places at the City Theater through Sunday. Culver spoke with The Detroit News about the origin of the show and Harry Potter’s universal appeal.

Q: How did this production originate, and how did you become involved?

A: The two original guys, Dan and Jeff, who wrote the show about 8 or 9 years ago, they’ve moved on to other projects. They were looking for two other actors to take the show off their hands, and obviously I was just as weird as they are because they gave me the job. And I’ve got my friend Joseph Maudsley, who is playing the “Dan” role in the show. I’m pretty sure he’s clinically insane. He’s a very strange guy and a lot of fun to tour with.

Dan and Jeff were asked to put something together for the launch of the sixth book in the series. They were asked to do something to entertain the crowds who were lined up outside the bookstore waiting for the book. They did a five minute recap of all five books. It went down really well, and the crowds loved it, and they thought, “We’re onto something here.” So they made a show out of it and put the sixth and seventh books in when they came out.

Then they went to the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland, where it got picked up by a producer. And since then it’s gone global, and it’s all down to the universal love of Harry Potter. It seems that everywhere we go in the world, Harry Potter is absolutely adored by everybody.

Q: Can those few who aren’t familiar with the book series or the films appreciate this as much as the diehard fans?

A: Dan and Jeff really wanted something that everybody could enjoy, be it people who’ve read all the books or seen all the films, or an uncle who hasn’t read a single page. All you need to know going in is that Harry Potter is a boy wizard, and unless you’ve been living under a rock, I think we’re all pretty much up to speed with that. We’ll tell you all the rest.

Q: Can you talk about the flavor of humor you bring to the source material, and what the audience can expect this weekend?

A: It’s very free, really. There’s a lot of improv in the show. We never quite know exactly what’s going to happen. Every night feels like opening night for us. And because there’s just two actors on stage, there’s nowhere to hide. Once we start the show, that’s it, we’re on stage for the full 70-75 minutes. It’s like a roller coaster. You just strap in and see where it’s going to take you.

It’s very interactive. It’s not one of those shows where you can sit in the safety of the darkness and expect not to be part of it. The audience really is the third actor in the show. And we’re definitely the only show in the world where you can go to a theater and play a live game of Quidditch.

Steven Sonoras is an Ypsilanti-based freelance writer.

‘Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience’

Through Sunday

City Theatre

2301 Woodward, Detroit

Tickets $42.50-$52.50

(855) 305-4873