It’s the show that has travelled the world condensing JK Rowling’s seven-book series into a rib-tickling 70-minute show, and it’s about to hit the stage in Dubai. Holly Sands meets the actors bringing magic to Mall of the Emirates.
Harry Potter superfans, rejoice! The unauthorised parody stage show Potted Potter is here, and if there’s one thing its stars aren’t afraid of, it’s audience members who are barmy for the boy wizard. ‘It’s amazing – at one of our shows in New York a woman turned up with the crests of all the Hogwarts houses tattooed down her back. That is real dedication,’ recalls James Percy, the British actor who forms one half of the duo who perform the show in its current incarnation. Taking place at Ductac, Mall of the Emirates, on Wednesday September 17 to September 21, the boys heartily encourage attendees young and old to draw lightning bolts on their foreheads and prepare to be part of the fun.
Described as ‘The Unauthorised Harry Experience’, the show was written by British comedians Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner, and is now performed by James and his partner in comedy Ben Stratton. ‘It’s basically a two-man show. Between us, we do all seven Harry Potter books in 70 minutes, and I have the privilege of playing Harry, whereas Ben has the privilege of getting to play every single other character,’ James explains. It’s hard not to feel like poor old Ben has drawn the short straw here. ‘He’s definitely got a sweatier job. He comes off stage in a big sweaty mess and collapses in the corner.’
It’s by no means your standard theatrical performance. During each show, James estimates around 70 percent of the content is scripted and 30 percent improvised, with audience participation often dictating the turn of events. ‘The journey we go on with each show is a bit different, which is great for us because it keeps it fresh and keeps each show feeling like opening night. We really get to work with the audience, get them up and play with what they give us. It’s definitely not a show where the audience sit in the dark and don’t get involved – they’re the third actor in the show, they really are.’
Naturally, it can be hard to predict what they’re going to have thrown at them, and recent stops on their world tour have given the pair a run for their money. ‘America gave us a real shock, because the American audiences are something else – they’re really hardcore. But it’s just so much fun, because we react honestly to whatever is put forward. We do have those moments where you wonder what you’re letting yourself in for.’
On that note, he’s keen to emphasise that though it’s a family show, it’s not aimed squarely at kids. ‘A lot of people say family shows and they mean kids shows, and this is definitely not that. There are certain elements to the comedy that the kids really love and go for, and they are certain elements that the adults will really get,’ he explains. ‘It’s also a classic comedy double-act, like Laurel and Hardy, the kind of stuff I grew up loving. And part of the humour comes from watching these two guys try to do the seemingly impossible, undoable challenge of getting through all that material in the time we have.’
Despite the monumental task before them, James is adamant each show is nothing short of a joy to do – and not just because of the impressive effort made by the audience (though, ‘We don’t have a single show where people don’t come dressed up or wearing at least their Gryffindor scarves,’ he chuckles). ‘I spend so much time with Ben, we’re together pretty much 24/7 when we’re on the road, so we find it very hard to keep a straight face on stage. He only has to give me a certain look or a slight eye movement and I know exactly what he’s thinking,’ he laughs.
With such a strong partnership, have they considered branching out to create their own project in the future? ‘We’ll see. At the moment, I just love doing Potter. There are some shows you do for the name attached to it or for the experience, and there are some shows you do because it’s just pure, unadulterated fun, and Potter is one of them.’
Grab your wands, Dubai, because Potted Potter is set to be nothing short of magic.
Dhs150-Dhs200. Ductac, Mall of the Emirates.
How well does James Percy know his alter ego? We find out.
What’s the spell for levitation?
Oh, Wingardium Leviosa!
What’s the name of the pub in Hogsmeade?
I don’t know!
The Three Broomsticks! Which of the Weasley twins had their ear cursed off in The Deathly Hallows?
Was it George?
What’s the name of Hagrid’s pet spider?
Hagrid’s pet spider is… Actually, I don’t remember the name being mentioned…
Aragog! During the Triward Tournament, which dragon is Harry put up against?
Oh, the horntail.
Where did Moaning Myrtle die?
I should know that. I don’t know. (The girls’ toilets)
Get your Potter on in Dubai
Dress up as Harry
Head to Mystique Costumes in Jumeirah or Al Barsha (or shop online) to pick up a full Harry Potter costume for adults. You won’t be the first in the Potted Potter crowd to turn up in fancy dress…
Dhs238. Beach Center, Jumeirah Beach Road, www.mystiquecostumes.com (04 349 4719).
Buy wands in The Dubai Mall
Forget Mr Olivander’s, it’s The Noble Collection you’ll need to visit to get your hands on a wizarding wand. Specialising in movie replicas, the store (opposite Hollywood Collection, which sells pieces for movies including Terminator and Alien V Predator) offers the chance to get your hands on a Time-Turner, Dumbledore’s Elder Wand, horcruxes, the Sword of Gryffindor and much more.
The Dubai Mall, www.noblecollection.com (04 330 8911).
Munch a Sorting Hat cake
House of Cakes Dubai does a variety of Potter-themed confectionery, including an impressive Sorting Hat sponge, featuring a selection of themed cupcakes around the rim.
Dhs680. Delivery across Dubai, www.houseofcakesdubai.com (04 420 6973).