No doubt Harry Potter characters will crop up, or at least get a mention, in many a panto this Christmas, but for addicts who want a whole show devoted to the boy wizard, here it is. Sort of.
The blurb boasts that CBBC presenters Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner, otherwise known as Dan and Jeff, will perform all seven books in seventy minutes. So, it’s a bit like the Reduced Shakespeare Company working their way through the Bard, but with rather less style and considerably less wit.
The main running gag is that the show couldn’t be more low tech if it tried, all the amazing sets and all the other amazing (National Theatre) actors having been ditched by Dan in favour of blowing the whole budget on the fantastic fire-breathing dragon in book four – which of course turns out to be the lowest tech device of the lot. The other running gag - and it runs out of steam pretty quickly – is that Dan keeps pretending to confuse the works of JK Rowling with other children’s classics like The Hobbit and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
Admittedly, this show is aimed at an audience aged six-plus and one shouldn’t be too snooty about a couple of very amiable performers, but the comedy of constant interruption and backchat has to be done very skilfully if it is to be sustained for a whole show - even at only 70 minutes. Dan and Jeff are hardly in the Morecambe and Wise league. But, to be fair to them, they do engage their audience in a madcap whirl of Potter-related buffoonery, and everyone enters into the spirit of the occasion, especially the youngsters who couldn’t wait to join them on stage during their version of Quidditch.
There are more than a few similarities between Potted Potter and an extended panto slapstick scene where, say, the Good Robber and the Bad Robber take it in turns to outdo each other: it’s all good fun, and the routines get sillier and sillier, but I have a sneaking feeling that genuine Potter fans who turn up expecting to get a flavour of the real thing will go away feeling decidedly short-changed.
- Giles Cole