Following the original sell-out tour of 2012, Potted Potter returns to Australia with its Olivier Award nominated and fantastically hilarious comedy that squeezes all seven of the Harry Potter books in seventy minutes. Originally created and performed by Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner, the 2014 season stars James Percy and Benjamin Stratton as every Potter character they can condense into the parody that entertains both those old fans who awaited every new book’s release, and the Muggles who have always wondered what the fuss was about.
James Percy has worked internationally as an actor and stand-up comedian.
Recently, James appeared Off-Broadway in New York City with Potted Potter, followed by a tour of the USA.
You have a background in performing comedy. How does appearing in Potted Potter compare to your previous roles in professional theatre?
Potted Potter is like no show I've ever been in before. It really brings together my work as an actor and as a stand-up comedian, in a way that definitely keeps me on my toes! What I love about this, is that we have such a close relationship with the audience. We interact directly with them, and get them involved in the show. The audience really are the third actor, you definitely can't just sit comfortably in the darkness of the theatre - you're part of it. You can't really get the audience involved too much when you're doing Shakespeare. Well, you could, but it would look a bit weird.
Were you involved in the original hype of 'The Potter Generation' during the release of the books and films?
'The Potter Generation'. Wow. That sounds quite cool, like we were hippies or part of a movement. I wonder if kids will study us in school along with The Victorians and The Tudors. I like it. I'm proud to say I was part of the original Potter generation! I remember the excitement when a new book was coming out and going to the cinema to see the films (with my Mum). I'm about the same age as Daniel Radcliffe, so being a young aspiring actor, the idea of playing Harry Potter seemed like the best job in the world! Little did I know that years later, I'd be playing him. Take that Radcliffe.
How is it following the original performers of Potted Potter, Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner, in the show they created themselves? Have you had much contact with them during the rehearsal process?
We call them 'the creators who must not be named'. We never speak of them.
No, in all honesty, Dan & Jeff have become such close friends (don't tell them I said that). They're like our much older, less attractive brothers, who always keep an eye on us. It was daunting taking on a show that they had done for so long - but they always encouraged us from the beginning, to find our version of the show, which was great. We really got to play around in the rehearsal room and find out what worked for us, and what we find funny, and of course we improvise a lot, which keeps every show feeling like opening night.
How do you adjust to performing for different audiences internationally?
It's always incredibly exciting and rather intimidating taking the show to a different part of the world. We never quite know what to expect. We like to push ourselves and really try to tailor the show, bringing in local references that we've picked up on and find funny or strange! Plus, of course, we do have to remember what the books are actually called in that part of the world. Don't get me started on the whole philosopher/sorcerer debate!
Who tends to make up your audiences? Are there returned older fans or predominantly younger families?
What I find lovely about a Potted Potter audience is that it really does include everyone from the very young to the very old. The show was created in a way that everyone can get something out of it, whether you know the Potter world inside out or haven't read a single page. At the heart of the show it's a classic comedy double act, and we take such inspiration from the likes of Laurel & Hardy or Morecambe & Wise. It's the style of comedy I very much grew up on - simply funny in a way that hopefully everyone can enjoy together.
What has been the most enjoyable part of appearing in Potted Potter?
Honestly, it is all far too much fun. I keep expecting to be sent a hefty bill for the amount of fun I've been having. I always enjoy travelling to new parts of the world, and love meeting new people. The fans of Potted Potter are simply amazing, they are always so welcoming wherever we go, and are genuinely lovely to us at stage doors all over the world. I really enjoy that bit. But of course, what's really wonderful is that night after night, I get to go up on stage with my mate Ben, and just share 70 minutes of silliness with a room full of people. I love it.
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