Let me begin this article by telling you that I don’t know the difference between Luna Lovegood or Lord Voldemort. I have no clue what Bat-Bogey Hex, Bulbadox Powder or Boggarts do. I’ve never even read one of the seven Harry Potter books or seen one of the eight films.
I have, in no way, contributed to the $15 billion the Harry Potter brand is estimated to be worth.
But that doesn’t mean that I’m a hater. In fact, I love the idea that a bunch of teenagers are utilizing their intellectual capacity and wit to outsmart the bad guys rather than dressing like a bunch of hoochies and trying to find a date to the prom.
Meet Jeff Turner and Daniel Clarkson. Two-time Olivier Award-nominated actors and Brits who share the same sentiment, Turner and Clarkson are the creators behind Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience, a parody that examines all seven Harry Potter books in 70 minutes.
“The way we’ve written the show is that we don’t want it to be exclusive — that’s not what Harry Potter’s about. It’s not a secret club or anything,” says Turner. “We want anybody who wants a bit of a laugh or a bit of entertaining to be able to enjoy it.”
Since its creation in 2005, Potted Potter has evolved from a couple of struggling actors having a laugh onstage to sold-out performances all over the world; from Ireland and Mexico to the Philippines and Dubai. Starting April 7, the play touches down here as part of the FSCJ Artist Series.
“Americans laugh at the same things that Brits laugh at, which was a real relief for us,” Turner says. “And also British culture is pretty en vogue out here at the moment with Harry Potter, obviously, and Dr. Who and Sherlock, and you still like people like the Queen and The Beatles.”
Though there are no more books or movies slated for future release, it’s fairly safe to say that the young wizard won’t be going out of style any time soon. And that’s just fine with Turner and Clarkson. They’ve had to revise Potted Potter several times over the years to coincide with new material.
“When book seven came out and films six, seven and eight came out, it seemed, at the time, it was extra work,” says Turner. “We thought, ‘Oh, it would be nice if we had a show that was just a show.’ But, actually, that’s what really helped us and what I think has contributed to the longevity of the show.”
Turner and Clarkson are not only the creators and writers behind Potted Potter. They’re also — more often than not — the ones traveling the world performing the material.
“We found that updating it, changing it and keeping it current really helps the show,” Turner explains. “And it helps Dan and me. We’ve now done the show about 1,600 times in the last 10 years. If it had been the same all that time, if we hadn’t killed each other, then we would have killed ourselves.”
Aside from escaping mutual homicide or suicide, Turner and Clarkson have dodged legal troubles. The Harry Potter brand has virtually left them alone to do what they do.
“If they really wanted to, they could absolutely crush us,” Turner says. “Dan and I really like the books and that comes across in the show. It’s a loving parody. If we got up there on stage and made fun of it and it came from a nasty place, then we wouldn’t have lasted a week.”
Going forward, the prolific duo will continue to create family-friendly parodies based on comedy and fantasy. They’ve also written Potted Pirates, which examines everyone from Long John Silver to Blackbeard, as well as Potted Panto, a Christmas-themed pantomime show.
“The formula that Dan and I go by is that if it makes us laugh, then it’s a keeper,” Turner says. “Of course, there’s been a few stinkers over the years. We do improvise and try things on stage and not everything can be gold. So we try it once or twice and if it doesn’t work, then it’s quietly retired.”