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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Mad about Potter

Audiences can take part in a game of Quidditch in this spoof of the Hogwarts wizard and his friends.
The Straits Times - September 3, 2012
By: Olivia Ho
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Mad about Potter Gary Trainor (left), who plays Harry Potter, on Jesse Briton (right), who romps through 360 characters in the books --PHOTO: POTTED POTTER

Harry Potter fans who have exhausted the ongoing ArtScience Museum exhibition, can look forward to a West End spoof condensing all seven of J.K. Rowling's best-selling tomes into just 70 minutes.

The popular parody about the boy wizard, titled Potted Potter, hits town tomorrow for 18 shows till Sept 16.

Life! managed an appropriately speedy interview over speaker-phone with the show's stars Gary Trainor and Jesse Briton while they were in a taxi en-route to their hotel in Manila last Thursday. The show is being held there before coming to Singapore.

Trainor, 26, plays Harry Potter.

Briton, 24, plays all the other characters in the books - almost 360 of them, claim publicity materials - with the help of multiple costume changes and accents.

"It's a bit daunting. Everyone really loves the books and films, so there's a certain amount of pressure doing this show," says Briton. "But mostly, we're having fun."

Potted Potter was created in 2005 by double Olivier Award Best Entertainment nominees Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner. The Olivier is the most sought- after award in British theatre, the equivalent of Broadway's Tony Awards.

Clarkson first conceived the show as a five-minute skit to entertain long queues of Potter fans waiting at a London bookstore for the midnight release of the sixth book, Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince.

Billed as The Unauthorized Potter Experience, the show went on to become a full-length stage production, with five sold-out seasons at the Edinburgh Fringe festival, five sold-out London runs and British and international tours.

But the 2012 tour in Asia, Australia and New Zealand has a new set of actors in Trainor and Briton. This is because original stars Turner, 31, and Clarkson, 33, had to remain in New York for the off-Broadway run of the show.

How do Trainor and Briton differ from the original duo? "We're younger and better-looking," jokes Briton, who is from Somerset in the United Kingdom.

Of the vast array of characters he has to play, his favourite is Hermione Granger, which is portrayed in the films by Emma Watson.

"Everyone has such a clear idea in their heads of what Hermione is like," he says. "I take a lot of pleasure in subverting that."

Irish actor Trainor, who plays only "straight character" Harry Potter, has to keep a poker face throughout the show despite Briton's antics.

"The hardest part is having to keep looking at him while he's being really funny," says Trainor. "There are times when he goes completely off script and I have no idea what's coming."

Both of them have not been to Singapore before. Trainor says: "We try to bring in some local references everywhere we go. We are going to have to interview the stage crew about the pop culture here, find out what's funny."

Audience members can also look forward to taking part in an in-theatre game of Quidditch which, in the books, is a wizarding sport played on broomsticks.

"We have cheering squads, we have teams, we have audience members getting right up onstage to play," he says. "That's the most fun part of the show."

The duo say they appreciate the enthusiasm of audiences in Manila, many of whom went dressed up in costumes.

"Yesterday night, we met a woman with her favourite spell from the books tattooed on her back," says Briton. "It was Wingardium Leviosa."

Both are fans of the books and films. Briton thinks that if he were in Potter's boarding school Hogwarts, he would want to be in the house of Hufflepuff. "They get overlooked a lot, but they have great potential," he says.

However, Trainor says he would be in Gryffindor. "They have all the best fun."

He played the lead role of Percy Shelley in the 2010 tour of Frankenstein and has also been in jukebox musical Buddy, The Buddy Holly Story and the West End version of The Shawshank Redemption.

Briton is the founder and director of British theatre company Bear Trap. His play Bound, which he wrote and directed, was staged at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2010 and earned him a nomination by the Evening Standard newspaper as most promising playwright.

Neither actor will get much rest on the show's Asia-Pacific tour. After its run here, it will move to Hong Kong, where it will play till the end of the month.

"The hardest part is having to keep looking at him while he's being really funny."

Gary Trainor, who plays Harry Potter, on Jesse Briton, who romps through 360 characters in the books


Book it

POTTED POTTER

Where: Singapore Repertory Theatre, DBS Arts Centre, 20 Merbau Road

When: Tomorrow to Sept 16 (go to Sistic for show timings)

Admission: Tickets at $70 and $85 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg )

Info: Go to www.pottedpotter.com.au or www.lunchbox-productions.com

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