Harry in a hurry

Harry in a hurry

If you're suffering from Hogwarts withdrawal, you're in for a treat

November 04, 2012
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Jesse Briton (top) and Gary Trainor are just two of the performers who have taken the Potted Potter show around the world.
Jesse Briton (top) and Gary Trainor are just two of the performers who have taken the Potted Potter show around the world.
Photo: Thomas Yau/SCMP
Unbelievable as it may sound, there are some people out there who have never read a word of the Harry Potter books. That may be because they have no interest in the adventures of the boy wizard, but more likely it is because of the sheer scale of the collection, with about 3,400 pages of text in the seven English-language books.

Whether you're in that weird (or too-young) category and have failed to finish that mammoth read, fear not. There's an alternative way to get the gist of the series, in less time that it takes to watch one of the movies, and a whole lot more.

"What we do is our own abridged version of all the Harry Potter books," says Englishman Jesse Briton, one half of the cast of the Potted Potter show coming to Hong Kong. "We do the complete Harry Potter narrative arc condensed into manageable portions."

By manageable portions, Briton means a 70-minute "potted" version. He explains that "potted" is a common term in Britain that basically means condensed. Rounding out the two-man show is Northern Ireland native Gary Trainor. The pair were hand-picked by the show's founders, writers and performers Daniel Clarkson and Jeff Turner, to bring the franchise to Asia. Others have performed it in other countries.

Dubbed "the unauthorized version of Harry Potter", the show originated from a five-minute street sketch of the first five books. It was meant as a brief source of entertainment for the Potter fanatics lining the streets while waiting for the release of the sixth book, The Half-Blood Prince. From there it snowballed into the entire seven books, with runs in London's West End, the United States, Canada and the Philippines, performed by varying duos.

Due to the nature of the script, and parody acts in general, there's a fair bit of improvisation involved. Briton and Trainor take the original script and add their own flair to the show.

After all, there is a lot of live interaction with the audience, so sticking to the main script may not always be an option. Luckily for them, it's not a requirement.

"Like any play, if you do two different [performances] of the same script, there's going to be two different shows," explains Trainor. "If you try to mimic someone, that doesn't work. So I think our show is very much a different show to what they [Clarkson and Turner] did, but it's very much honouring the flavour of it and the script they devised and wrote."

With the aid of props, costumes, music, song and dance, the pair hope to give you a glimpse of the books, while making you laugh. But it can be a daunting task, especially considering the sheer size and number of volumes involved.

"It's very tongue-in-cheek, in a way," explains Trainor. "There's no way you can tell everything that you want to tell. So it's about telling the bits you need to tell, hinting at other things, commenting on parts you leave out and racing on through."

Familiarity with the material will not be an issue, the pair says, adding that it appeals to youngsters, adults, teens, fans or first-timers alike.

"It appeals equally to those demographics," Briton concludes.

Sounds like an absolutely magical outing to us!

Potted Potter plays at HKAPA, from September 18 to 30. Tickets from HK Ticketing.

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